Let's hear it for conservatives! I don't mean the ideological nutballs of the loopy right, such as Tom DeLay. Nor do I mean the corporatists who masquerade as conservatives to enrich corporate elites at the expense of everyone else, as, for example, Tom DeLay does. (With DeLay, you get a twofer as a poster boy for both wings of phony conservatism.)
Rather, I'm talking about the real conservatives who're now standing up against the rising tsunami of secrecy in government. Public officials, from the president on down, have a natural proclivity to slap a "secret" tag on any scrap of information they'd rather the public not see -- and they've gotten slap-happy in recent years.
In the White House, the rise of official secrecy has been startling -- and dangerous. In Bush's first term, the number of classified documents rose by more than 75 percent. Sixteen million documents are now being declared secret each year, hidden from We the People, at a cost of $7 billion a year -- not counting what the intelligence agencies hide from us. At the same time, the Bushites and the Congress have rushed to weaken or kill our right-to-know laws.
As the Founders knew, a government operating in secrecy is a threat to its own people, and only by empowering the people to see what's going on inside can democracy have a chance. Luckily, some true conserv-atives are now rebelling against the recent rise in secrecy. An umbrella group called OpenTheGovernment.org is rallying constitutional conservatives from all parties to turn the tide for openness. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, is defying his own party's leadership to sponsor legislation that would strengthen our freedom of information laws.
In dealing with government power, it's not true that "what you don't know can't hurt you." All of us -- Democrats, Republicans, whatever -- need to stand up now for this truly conservative principle. To join the effort, go to www.openthegovernment.org.
Publication date: 04/07/04