Entry for September 11, 2005

September 11 and Katrina

Today, America is confronting another disaster that has caused destruction and loss of life. This time the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind. 

So said  Dubya yesterday in his weekly radio address.  The  fury of water and wind and the incompetance of my administration, he should have said. 

And if  his administration  had had his way, there would have been zero access by the media to cover the recovery of the bodies of the dead in New Orleans.  Maybe if we don’t see them, they aren’t there?

But rather than fight a lawsuit by CNN, the  government abandoned  its effort  in federal court Saturday,  with its attorney stating,

This morning about five minutes ago I handed to counsel for the plaintiffs a statement… that Joint Task Force Katrina, commanded by Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, has no plans to bar, impede, or prevent news media from their news gathering and reporting activities in connection with the deceased Hurricane Katrina victim recovery efforts, including access to the sites, photographing or reporting.

U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison had issued a temporary restraining order  Friday, September 9 against the policy announced earlier that day by Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is overseeing the federal relief effort in the city, and Terry Ebbert, the city’s homeland security director. 

The failed attempt to muzzle the press is just the lastest in government secrecy.  The startling photo above is of the remains of the twin towers comes  from the files at the Boston Herald.  It accompanied a special report by Maggie Mulvihill “Suffering in secret: Dark consequence of 9/11” which was filed this morning at 9:07 a.m.

She references Secrecy Report Card 2005 by Open The Government,  a project  Rick Blum heads at OMB Watch, which issued a statement on Katrina September 8.

With a toxic stew roiling through the streets of New Orleans, the public’s right to know about dangerous chemicals in their communities and the present dangers of large scale commercial coastal development becomes ever more important.

In 1997, as Chairman of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted Senator John F. Kerry’s observation that

more often than not they were documents that remained classified or were classified to hide negative political information, not secrets

and concluded

It was just such anomalies that led to the Commission… the judgment that unless secrecy is reduced, it cannot be protected.

The Secrecy Report Card 2005 finds there were twice as many  new classified documents in 2004 as in 2001 – a jump of about 7 million.  Taxpayers doles out  $7.2 billion last year alone to keep government documents hidden.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,  officials in addition to telling  news photographers not to take pictures of the dead,   refused to release information about Federal Emergency Management Agency spending following previous hurricanes.

The Bush administration’s unprecedented assault on the principle of open government was documented last September by House Committee on Government Reform Minority Office.  The report received so little attention in the media that it was selected by Sonoma State’s Project Censored as its  number one ignored story for last year.  To find out more about your Freedom of Information rights check out the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

On September 6, the ranking members called for a committee investigation on the Federal response to Katrina.  The same day the Committee’s Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) announced that hearings would be held, although he criticized Waxman for “prematurely”  faulting the federal government.  The hearings are slated to start September 15.

(I also posted this to Dem SPEAK: Speaking of Democracy, a site which has been set up s to promote the rethinking of progressive politics, the reframing of public debate and the changing of public policy by training and the engaging grassroots activists around the country.

See also:

Entry for 09/09/05: Hail Dubyas!

Entry for 09/08/05: Bush fiddles around while New Orleans burns

Entry for 09/07/05: We are Blues people

Entry for 08/28/05: Tim Robbins on Iraq

Entry for 08/25/05: Pat Robertson says, “Assassinate that dictator Chavez”

Entry for 08/24/05: Cease Fire in Iraq!

 

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