Friday, June 01, 2007

That's Unfortunate

Mark Tapscott pegs Senator Kyl as the latest in the long line of Senators who've held up good legislation in Congress:

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, has conceded that he is the senator behind the secret hold on the proposed Open Government Reform Act of 2007, which would provide much-needed improvements in the federal Freedom of Information Act.

AP reports that Kyl explains his decision to place the secret hold on the bill as a result of "uncharacteristically strong" objections from the Justice Department. Kyl will maintain his hold until supporters of the FOIA reform bill, which includes its primary architect, Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, and opponents can work out their differences.

Memo to Sen. Kyl: Some differences are irreconciliable, such as the difference between those like Cornyn who believe transparency in government is the first essential for democratic accountability, and those in government like the career attorneys at the Justice Department who ALWAYS find a reason to oppose increased transparency.

This gulf cannot be bridged without completely gutting the FOIA reform of whatever substance it retains after three years of negotiation and concessions by its proponents in a vain effort to create a bill that is sufficiently non-threatening to government interests.

Moreover, Sen. Kyl, you have been in Congress more than long enough to know the original FOIA - approved by Congress in 1966 after a decade-long struggle - already has such rigorous exceptions to protect national security considerations that no honest, reasonably alert bureaucrat in the Pentagon or anywhere else in the government can't keep just about any document behind closed doors. Even President Bush has conceded that the government classifies far too many documents.

What is really aggravating here, Sen. Kyl, is that you profess to be a conservative, a believer in limited government and individual liberty, but here you are taking up the cause of Big Government's first line of defense.

Of all people in Congress who ought to be first to proclaim that the public has an inherent right to see how the public's business is being conducted, one would think it would be a conservative from a western state where people remember Barry Goldwater.

Come on, Sen. Kyl, remember what Patrick "Give me liberty or give me death" Henry said: "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."

And if that doesn't do it, maybe these words will: "Disclosure of government information is particularly important today because government is becoming involved in more and more aspects of every citizen's personal and business life, and so access to information about how government is exercising its trust becomes increasingly important."

And this from the same author as the preceeding paragraph: "The legislation was initially opposed by a number of agencies and departments, but following the hearings and issuance of the carefully prepared report -- which clarifies legislative intent -- much of the opposition seems to have subsided. There still remains some opposition on the part of a few Government administrators who resist any change in the routine of government.

"They are familiar with the inadequacies of the present law, and over the years have learned how to take advantage of its vague phrases. Some possibly believe they hold a vested interest in the machinery of their agencies and bureaus and there is resentment to any attempt to oversee their activities either by the public, the congress or appointed Department heads.

"But our democratic society is not based upon the vested interests of Government employees. It is based upon the participation of the public who must have full access to the facts of Government to select intelligently their representatives to serve in Congress and in the White House."

Who said that? Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, when he was a co-sponsor in 1966 of the original FOIA. You should read his floor speech on behalf of greater openenss [sic] in government with the original FOIA. Everything he said then applies with even greater force and urgency today.

So why are you now carrying Big Government's water?

Ouch. It's sad to see but if true, deserved.

I like Senator Kyl. He's been stalwart on the War and for the most part, a solid fiscal conservative. And besides, I went to college with his daughter.

Now of course that has nothing to do with anything but I love to drop it in now and again.

Back on point, I don't really get this. Senator Kyl is normally--while perhaps not vocal about it--practically speaking solidly small-government and so Tapscott's closing question leaves one to wonder.

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