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[Obligatory reference to song lyric with Sunshine in it.]
March 15, 2007 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Same Old Dogs, Same Old Tricks. In a rare act of bipartisan cooperation, the House of Representatives passed a group of bills strengthening the FOIA (HR 1309), streamlining access to Presidential Libraries (HR 1255), and expanding safeguards for whistleblowers (still in process, HR 985), with those that were passed having a veto-proof margin. The White House sharply criticized these acts of transparency as unconstitutional, a threat on the established separation of Powers, and as a threat to national security [pdf]. All of which heralds back to an earlier time, that looks vaguely familiar...
posted by rzklkng (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is 1974, and the White House is recovering from Watergate, under the eyes of a scrutinous press and populace.  Over time, procedural delays, excessive billing to the public, and abuse of the classified and top secret exemptions had eroded the usefullness of FOIA - a problem Congress was determined to remedy.  President Gerald Ford and Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld (who first voted for the act in 1966, as a challenge to the LBJ in his conducting of the Vietnam War) were generally supportive. But Deputy Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, and the head of the Justice Departments Office of Legal Counsel, Anton Scalia, among others, began organizing the opposition.  Then, something happened that caused them to change their minds.

The NYTimes prominently covered embarassing leaks of classified information related to the military capabilities of the Israelis.  Now, what were these leaks? The second document from the senior staff meeting in October 1974 involved 2 New York Times articles related to Israel. Both (link#1, link#2) were from the "Working Group" of the NSC (National Security Council), covered the defensive and offensive capability of the Israelis, as well as their request for future funding. So who did the leaking?  Does it matter?

Regardless, concerns about the leaks caused Ford to veto the bill when it crossed his desk.  That veto was summarily overriden, leaving us with the Freedom of Information Act that we have today.
posted by rzklkng at 9:21 AM on March 15, 2007


Because if there's one thing the Executive is justified in squawking about, it's the erosion of the separation of powers. Oh, no, wait, sorry, that's only OK when WE do it, signing statements are totally on a different page from attempts at greater transparency in government.

Christ, it's like this man is a living caricature of what the Republican party bandied about as the living incarnation of Evil Liberal Government, as little as 8 years ago...
posted by Mayor West at 9:30 AM on March 15, 2007


You know I see that photo of Rumsfeld and Cheney standing next to President Ford and I get a chill thinking how long those two have been plotting their coup, how patiently they waited, and how complete was their victory.

Freedom of information? People don't pay attention to the information that's already free.
posted by three blind mice at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2007


I think I need a shower.
posted by DU at 10:01 AM on March 15, 2007


So why is this administration so concerned? What was that talking point that they have used in the past with regard to their monitoring of our personal correspondences?

"If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about?"

Right?
posted by quin at 10:10 AM on March 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Geez, folks, ya' know IOKIYAR dammit!
posted by nofundy at 10:23 AM on March 15, 2007


So why is this administration so concerned?

Well, according to their Statement of Policy they're primarily concerned about certain revenue-reducing restrictions, timing limitations on request fulfillment (which costs more!), and oh yeah they liked the way Ashcroft firewalled them after 9/11, don't change that! Dang!
posted by carsonb at 10:23 AM on March 15, 2007


By "separation of powers" this administration means "separating the powers from the other two branches, and consolidating them over here." So sure, this erodes separation of powers.
posted by stevis23 at 10:27 AM on March 15, 2007


Plus i've heard there's tons of Iran-Contra stuff (and worse) from Reagan and Daddy's day that they never want to see come up.
posted by amberglow at 10:27 AM on March 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain the point of view that sterngthening FOIA threatens the separation of powers? I don't even remotely understand where that's coming from.
posted by zennie at 10:31 AM on March 15, 2007


They think every single law weakens the executive branch--every single one.
posted by amberglow at 10:35 AM on March 15, 2007


amberglow, I trust you saw this yesterday...
posted by rzklkng at 10:35 AM on March 15, 2007


i didn't, rzklkng--thanks. Our media is simply shit--and Congress better grow a spine fast (this Sunshine thing itself is meaningless if they simply don't comply--which is their usual MO).
posted by amberglow at 10:44 AM on March 15, 2007


The constitution greatly weakens the executive power and emboldens the terrorists.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:58 AM on March 15, 2007


Veto proof, sure, but not 'signing statement' proof.

The constitution greatly weakens the executive power and emboldens the terrorists.
Considering the 'Founding Fathers' were themselves former terrorists (by the current broad definition), of course!

And sunshine on my shoulder makes me high.
posted by wendell at 12:17 PM on March 15, 2007


there is no signing statement on an over-ridden veto
posted by caddis at 1:14 PM on March 15, 2007


President Gerald Ford and Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld (who first voted for the act in 1966, as a challenge to the LBJ in his conducting of the Vietnam War) were generally supportive. But Deputy Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, and the head of the Justice Departments Office of Legal Counsel, Anton Scalia, among others, began organizing the opposition.
It truly is terrifying how long these people have held positions of power.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:58 PM on March 15, 2007


It truly is terrifying how long these people have held positions of power.
A successful coup takes time to bring to fruition, y'know.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:23 PM on March 15, 2007


As a researcher who has hit up the archives a few times, and thankfully, not in the worst affected fields, I was quite pleased to see fruition of the bill. Congress gets a cookie. ... well. A graham cracker at least.
posted by Atreides at 3:20 PM on March 15, 2007


caddis:
there is no signing statement on an over-ridden veto

Now that is an interesting thought. I am a little unclear on the precise procedure in murican politics, by my understanding is the lot of em put a bill up, the prez signs it off and, while he is at it, slides a little (debatable, legal wise) "rider" on it, called a signing statement. Now, if the prez veto's a bill and thus does not sign it into law, and then it gets over-ridden by the Senate, he loses the opportunity for his rider. Since he should have a pretty damn good idea if he will lose the veto or not, it is interesting that he forgoes the opportunity, especially since he cannot be re-elected (so far). This is right?
posted by Bovine Love at 6:46 PM on March 15, 2007


Those little riders are meaningless so he basically forgoes nothing.
posted by caddis at 7:21 PM on March 15, 2007


there is no signing statement on an over-ridden veto
That's why he'd get more leverage by NOT vetoing it, as well as the false appearance of cooperation...
posted by wendell at 11:39 PM on March 15, 2007


exactly
posted by caddis at 5:01 AM on March 16, 2007


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