Sunday, July 12, 2009

ALA Day 2 Continued

ALA President's Program--The Secrecy Hangover

ALA was fortunate to have Tom Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University speak about freedom of government information past and president. Because of his actions and his 50 lawsuits against the U.S. government, thousands of pages of information have been declassified, and U.S. citizens have learned the good and the ugly actions of their government. According to Mr. Blanton, the government will almost always choose secrecy. Why? What is classified is an individual decision based on the feelings of that person at the time of the decision. Mr. Blanton showed the audience that much of this overclassification is due to embarrassment, turf control, and fear of criminal liability. Trying to hide the actions of a government official under the guise of national security is an all too common event. One of the incidences he discussed was the FBI Library Awareness program of the 1970's. I remember this one well. Librarians were supposed to turn in anyone with a foreign accent looking for information that could be considered sensitive. At the time I was working at Brooklyn College, and every week a nice Russian gentleman came to the federal depository library asking for armed services committee hearings. Needless to say he had as much right to this public information as anyone.

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