Please government, just hand them over. At least more of them than you’re giving us now. We’re talking about files, documents and transcripts; all the stuff you have locked away in cabinets, shielded from our curious eyes. Word got out that you’re hoarding what we want to see now more than ever, and that’s a scary prospect. We’d like to ask you to stop hiding behind terrorism this and national security that and let us have a gander.
No? We should have expected that. Ever since the late ’90s, and even more so after Sept. 11, 2001, things have been stashed away so you can protect documents from the prying eyes of terrorists. But you’ve directly refused our inquiries to see documents too, and that’s hurting our democracy.
Our friends at the Associated Press looked into you, well, as far as you would let them see, and here’s what they found: The percentage of documents you released upon request has been decreasing since 1998 in about all your departments. The AP told them to us in alphabetical order: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury. After the Twin Towers fell the Justice Department also stopped giving us much, and last year the CIA only gave us 12 percent of what they know. The FBI won’t let go of anything. They granted a whopping 1 percent of our wishes.
Way back in the ’60s when hippies roamed the earth, they created the Freedom of Information Act, which said you had to show peace and love by respecting the public’s right to know. This week we’re remembering those groovy times by recognizing Sunshine Week – the other name for the law – by raising awareness to the fact that you aren’t as pro-freedom as you want to come across.
The FOIA has helped provide us with documents, which strengthens our democracy by educating us on how things are run. But you’re damaging its usefulness by saying no to us like we’re nagging children. Instead of saying “because” like our parents, you say there are “no records” for a lot of stuff, which just isn’t true sometimes and also doesn’t help us understand much.
Remember a few years ago when you started putting the prefix “freedom” onto everything, like fries? We think you should do it again. Let’s start this week by putting the freedom back in information.