Secrecy was a problem in the Bush administration before the attacks, Strossen says.
Question: Has the government become more transparent since 9/11?
Nadine Strossen: Well, the post 09/11 issues are obviously profound and rather than going into the details of specific issues, I would say you have raised one of the overarching issues, which is government secrecy and government accountability. Secrecy was a problem with the Bush administration even before the terrorist attacks. It already had cut back on Freedom of Information Act and transparency in many ways and the silver lining to that cloud is that recently Congress did pass and the President did sign legislation to bolster protection for…to bolster the enforceability of the Freedom of Information Act although stay tuned…the President has taken other action that apparently is pulling the teeth out from that law. So, definitely, it has got to be a major priority, not only for the next administration, but I really, really have to stress, Congress' responsibility for all of this. Much as any President might want to exercise dictatorial powers that is not the way our system works, as I have to keep reminding my Liberal friends who love to demonize George Bush and before our current Attorney General, John Ashcroft, was a real lightning rod, that they did not single handedly pass the USA Patriot Act. Laws do not get passed that way and some of the worst abuses have been committed with Congress, by Congress, not just by executive order or Congress has been too lackluster in countering the President's abuses of power, even and I say this to my Democratic friends, even under Democratic leadership. Why has Congress still not restored habeas corpus? Why has Congress not passed legislation to end the military commissions that Bush created with his executive order? Why has Congress not passed legislation to shut down the Guantanamo facility? Why is Congress now moving toward immunity for the telephone companies that violate our privacy? So, nothing is going to change overnight just by having a new President, but what I would hope for is that the executive branch and/or the legislative branch of government will really enforce the rule of law that there will be oversight by Congress, meaning oversight, for what the administration is doing, not just accepting and what any administration is doing in the name of the War on Terror, not just accepting assertions that we need this power in order to keep America safe…no, you don’t have to go into…you don’t have to reveal secrets of individual cases, but just on a statistical basis, demonstrate that the existing powers and for example the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, have not been effective or sufficient in particular cases and make the case rather than just rolling over and rubber stamping whatever power grab the President is asking for.
Recorded On: 2/14/08