THE GOVERNMENT'S MANIA FOR SECRECY
President Ronald Reagan nicknamed 1987 "The Year of the
Reader," but throughout 1987 the Reagan administration outdid
itself in its efforts to control, interpret, manipulate,
disinform, and censor all forms of information.
Typical of the Reagan administration's effort to control its
own destiny and the nation's history was the Justice Department
memorandum that could enable Reagan to control the history of his
involvement in the Iran-contra scandal. The administration is
seeking to overturn a 1986 federal court ruling that limited
Nixon's right to block the release of his White House papers. The
Justice Department memorandum, filed in a lawsuit, would allow
Nixon to withdraw any documentation he though should be
suppressed. In effect, this would put Nixon in control of U.S.
history between 1968 and 1974. If Nixon wins, it will pave the way
for Reagan to determine official U.S. history from 1980 to 1988.
While alarming, this is only one small example of Reagan's
mania for secrecy. Following are the reports of three groups that
tried to warn us about what was happening.
PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY. This group's report provides more
than 100 pages of well-documented charges concerning the growing
trend toward secrecy in government and its threat to American
democracy. It "tells the story of the institutionalization of
secrecy throughout the federal government...the story of
unprecedented controls on information, not only on defense and
foreign policy issues where legitimate secrets do need to be
protected, but on a host of topics vital to our daily lives, from
toxic wastes to occupational hazards, from new technology to the
health of our children."
THE REPORTERS COMMITTEE FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. This group
issued an alert about how the Reagan administration and its
supporters restrict public access to government information. The
50-page report lists 135 specific actions that have occurred since
1981, including threatened prosecution of the press publishing
classified information; expulsion of foreign journalists; proposed
amendments to weaken the Freedom of Information Act; and the use
of lie detectors.
THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION. The latest edition of the
association's annual report on censorship provides a damning
indictment of Reagan administration efforts to "restrict and
privatize government information" such as public documents and
statistics. The 1987 report adds 78 items to the case for Reagan's
Sources: THE NATION, May 23, 1987, "History Deleted"; GOVERNMENT
DECISIONS WITHOUT DEMOCRACY, December 1987, by People for the
American Way; FYI MEDIA ALERT 1987, March 1987, "The Reagan
Administration and the News Media," by the Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press; THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, Washington
Office, "Less Access to Less Information By and About the U.S.
Government: IX," December 1987, by Anne A. Heanue.
From: UTNE READER, September/October 1988, pp. 86-87.