Declassifying The Secrecy Hangover Through Freedom of Information
Stacy L. Voeller
Rettigs 2009 ALA Presidents Program on July 12 featured Thomas S.
Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University
in Washington, D.C. The National Security Archive is an independent non-governmental
research institute and library located at The George Washington University which
collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of
as the Archives first director of planning and research beginning in 1986,
became Deputy Director in 1989, and Executive Director in 1992. He filed his first
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1976 as a weekly newspaper reporter in Minnesota;
and among many hundreds subsequently, he filed the FOIA request and subsequent
lawsuit (with Public Citizen Litigation Group) that forced the release of Oliver
Norths Iran-contra diaries in 1990. Mr. Blanton is a founding editorial
board member of freedominfo.org,
the virtual network of inter- national freedom of information advocates.
According to Blanton, todays New York Times has a front page article entitled Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of C.I.A. Project where the C.I.A. was said to have withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from congress for eight years on orders from the former vice president. Blanton asked, A vice president involved in concealing a program from Congress, now why does that not surprise us?
covered a variety of topics including the Library Awareness Program run by the
FBI to investigate people with foreign sounding names, and how when librarians
complained about it, the FBI then started investigating them. He also discussed
challenges to National Security Letters and how Library Connection heroes
like Gonzales will go down in the annals of First Amendment cases because despite
the gag rule, people like Gonzales spoke out and pushed back the government and
won. Between the years 20032005, there were 143,000 open-ended National
Security Letters issued with only one valid terrorism-related (material support)
Blanton also supplied several instances in which being open and talking about what was happening could have prevented catastrophes from happening. Had the FBI agents in Minnesota who caught Moussoui publicized his arrest, the agents in Arizona who had reported strange activity at a flight school there would have made the connection and made arrests there, too. After publicizing information about the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynskis brother read the article in the Chicago Tribune and knew it was his brother and turned him in. The Washington D.C. sniper is another example. They caught him by getting a good description of the car, and an assistant states attorney chose to link it to the media, and within an hour a trucker called him in and a S.W.A.T. team came and got the sniper. What caught these people, secrecy? No, the release of information was what did. Are we really safer in the dark?
In a telling example, Blanton showed
an email from Colin Powell. Duplicate copies of the email were on the projection
screen and had been gone over by the same person who was crossing out information
that was considered sensitive. With two large blocks crossed off in each copy
of the email, Blanton discovered that when they were put together, really only
one sentence was crossed off in both of the copies. Blanton said this proves how
subjective the veil of secrecy is.
President Obama made the promise of transparency and openness as key for his new administration. According to Blanton, we have Obama with his commitment to transparency, and now hes sort of backtracking on that. While the Obama administration did release the torture memos, it would not release the photos. In that, Obama received a score of 50 percent, which would mean he flunked. But, compared to the prior eight years, hes passing with flying colors. Torture memos are the beginning of the process of maximum proactive disclosure.
Tom Blanton discusses The Secrecy Hangover July 12 during the ALA Presidents Program.
The Chicago Gay Mens Chorus begins the Opening General Session July 11.
Dr. Camila Alire Inaugurated 2009 ALA President
Camila Alire, dean emerita at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M.
and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., began her term as 20092010
ALA president at the conclusion of the 2009 Annual Conference in Chicago.
It is an honor to have the opportunity to lead the American Library Association. ALA embodies the hard work of all the librarians, information specialists, and library support staff who take serving the information needs of their communities very seriously. One of my goals is to provide another level of advocacy that articulates the not only the value of all types of libraries, but also the value of our members working in those libraries to their respective communities.
is currently professor of practice (adjunct) for Simmons Colleges Ph.D.
program in managerial leadership and part-time professor for San Jose State University
Library & Information Sciences executive MLIS managerial leadership
She served as dean of
libraries at the University of Colorado at Denver and worked as a community college
library director, special library director, school librarian (K-12) and assistant
to the dean/instructor at the University of Denvers LIS program.
Alire chaired several committees including the ALAs Committee on Legislation, Nominating Committee; Committee on Education and American Libraries Advisory Committee; the 2005 ACRL National Conference Committee; the Colorado Council on Library Development board; several Colorado Association of Libraries committees; and several regional library system-governing boards. She has served on ALA Council, ALA Executive Board and the Association for Research Libraries board.
is a past president of the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL)
(2005) and served as the national president (1993-94) of the National Association
to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking
(REFORMA). ACRL is a division of ALA; REFORMA is an affiliate of ALA.
was named to the ALA/ ALTA National Advocacy Honor Roll for her library advocacy
work; received the Mountain Plains Library Associations Legislative Award;
and named Scholar-in-Residence for the Chicago Public Library System. She received
the first ALA Elizabeth Futas Catalyst for Change Award and National REFORMAs
Librarian of the Year.
honored one year by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the 100 most influential
Hispanics in the country.
also co-authored books on library services to Latino communities, disaster recovery,
and leadership and has written extensively on diversity.
Roberta Stevens, outreach projects and partnerships officer at the Library of Congress and project manager for the National Book Festival, also began her term as ALA president-elect. She will assume the ALA presidency in June 2010 at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.