Bush Admin: What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt Us
By Paul Kiel – December 18, 2006, 11:46 AM Just how many different ways has the Bush Administration tried to hide once-public information sources from the public record? Help us count the ways.
On Friday, Justin discovered that the Department of Defense has suddenly classified the numbers of attacks in Iraq for September through November of this year — after providing the figures for every month since the war began. Why classify the information now? If there’s a good explanation, we don’t know it, and the Pentagon isn’t returning our calls.
As others have noted, it’s far from the first time that the administration has tried to deep-six data that was unhelpful to its goals. Over the years, they’ve discontinued annual reports, classified normally public data, de-funded studies, quieted underlings, and generally done whatever was necessary to keep bad information under wraps.
Wouldn’t it be great to have all those examples in one place? Thankfully, Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report has started us off on that goal. But we’re pretty confident there are more examples, so please use the comments to make suggestions, and we’ll update the list as we verify the specifics. Please, include links where possible.
Here’s Steve’s list:
* In March, the administration announced it would no longer produce the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation, which identifies which programs best assist low-income families, while also tracking health insurance coverage and child support.* In 2005, after a government report showed an increase in terrorism around the world, the administration announced it would stop publishing its annual report on international terrorism.
* After the Bureau of Labor Statistics uncovered discouraging data about factory closings in the U.S., the administration announced it would stop publishing information about factory closings.
* When an annual report called “Budget Information for States” showed the federal government shortchanging states in the midst of fiscal crises, Bush’s Office of Management and Budget announced it was discontinuing the report, which some said was the only source for comprehensive data on state funding from the federal government.
* When Bush’s Department of Education found that charter schools were underperforming, the administration said it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.
Our list continues, after the jump.
* The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has to date failed to produce a congressionally-mandated report on climate change that was due in 2004. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has called the failure an “obfuscation.”
* The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced plans to close several libraries which were used by researchers and scientists. The agency called its decision a cost-cutting measure, but a 2004 report showed that the facilities actually brought the EPA a $7.5 million surplus annually.
* On November 1st, 2001, President Bush issued an executive order limiting the public’s access to presidential records. The order undermined the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which required the release of those records after 12 years. Bush’s order prevented the release of “68,000 pages of confidential communications between President Ronald Reagan and his advisers,” some of whom had positions in the Bush Administration. More here. (Thanks to Roger A. and nitpicker below.) Update: TPMm Reader JP writes in to point out that Bush did the same thing with his papers from the Texas governorship.
* A rule change at the U.S. Geological Survey restricts agency scientists from publishing or discussing research without that information first being screened by higher-ups at the agency. Special screening will be given to “findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.” The scientists at the USGS cover such controversial topics as global warming. Before, studies were released after an anonymous peer review of the research. (Thanks to Alison below.)
* A new policy at the The U.S. Forest Service means the agency no longer will generate environmental impact statements for “its long-term plans for America’s national forests and grasslands.” It also “no longer will allow the public to appeal on long-term plans for those forests, but instead will invite participation in planning from the outset.”