Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When government invokes secrecy in day to day policy making...

On her blog, journalist Sharyl Attkisson references what she calls a "thought provoking" article at Time regarding federal contract being disbursed to house tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children.

Attikisson writes:
The Time article also brings attention to an ongoing theme under the Obama administration: its penchant to withhold public information of public interest. According to Time, “To shield vulnerable kids from angry opponents of immigration and the media spotlight, the government declines to disclose the locations and activities of many of the facilities operated by BCFS and similar organizations. That protectiveness comes at a political cost. Governors in states across the U.S. have assailed the federal government for sending kids to their states without notifying local officials, and congressional critics say that massive amounts of taxpayer money are being spent without proper oversight.”
I find the Obama administration's  indulgence into secrecy, or offering arguments of complexity, to separate itself from public understanding or oversight is a dangerous trend.

Similar practices have been noted before, with another government, in another era:
"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security.... 
"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.
The passages are written by historian Milton Mayer, excerpted from his 1955 book "They Thought They Were Free." Written in 1955, the book recounts the rise of Nazi Germany through the eyes of  everyday people who failed to grasp at the time what was unfolding before their own eyes.

I've referred to Mayer's book before in my bloggings. It was required reading in my college freshman Western Civ class many years ago.

Do I dare invoke the words and warning of philosopher and writer George Santayana?

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

H/T to Cheryl for the Attkisson article via Twitter and FB

No comments:

Post a Comment