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Mushroom nation

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The battle over records of Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy powwows has grabbed the largest headlines, but it’s only one in a series of depressing skirmishes where the Bush administration is strangling the public’s right to learn exactly what our government is up to (or, more accurately, down to). Examples are cataloged on the Web by the advocacy group OMB (as in Office of Management and Budget) Watch, which says:

“The American public’s right to know about how its government works and what it does is under assault. … Without public debate, we are rapidly shifting from a society based on the public’s right to know to one in which information is made available on a need to know basis, where government sits in judgment.”

Among the other fronts, OMB Watch cites the post-Sept. 11 removal of “thousands of documents and tremendous amounts of data” from government Web sites, secret deportation hearings, instructions to government agencies to withhold information whenever possible, growing delays in responding to Freedom of Information requests and limiting access to presidential records.

Sean Moulton, a senior policy analyst for the Washington-based group, tells News Hits that in addition to reaching out to the public, they are also contacting an array of groups — from librarians to environmentalists — to both form a coalition and develop a strategy to combat the trend. “I would say before the end of the year we’ll figure out what our approach is going to be,” says Moulton. He admits that it’s “not an easy issue to get people to think about.” Of course, it all depends on what you know.

See “A Call to Action Against Secrecy” at www.ombwatch.org.

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