"To fabricate an alibi for his nonfeasance, and to cover up his department's embarrassing cut of the counterterrorism budget last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft - working with his hand-picked aide, F.B.I. Director 'J. Edgar' Mueller III - has gutted guidelines put in place a generation ago to prevent the abuse of police power by the federal government," writes conservative pundit William Safire.
"In the eight months since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, the Bush administration has moved more quickly than any administration since World War II to make government activities, documents and other information secret," reports USA Today. "Hundreds of thousands of public documents have been removed from government Web sites. Other public information has been edited, and access to some materials has been made more difficult.
In their resignation letters, the top two members of the Ombudsman Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have accused the agency of covering up the existence of deadly pollution in the area of the destroyed World Trade Center towers in New York. Emergency workers who were sent to the scene and residents of Lower Manhattan are developing serious, and in some cases, life-threatening respiratory ailments and other health problems.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a media mogul who already owns most of the country's television outlets, is trying to stamp out the few voices of dissent left on the airwaves. "On Thursday, the conservative prime minister accused two journalists and a comedian who have been critical of him in the past of the 'criminal use' of state television," reports the New York Times. ... Under his government, Mr. Berlusconi said, state television 'cannot be so seditious.'"
The resignation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ombudsman Robert Martin ends his long-running battle to preserve his office and its ability to independently investigate cases where the agency mishandled Superfund sites. His resignation came on the heels of actions taken by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to disband his office, including sending agents to confiscate his files and his computers, and to change the locks on his office.
The Internet has been hyped as "a revolutionary new medium, so inherently empowering and democratizing, that old authoritarian regimes would crumble before it," but Andrew Stroehlein points out that the reality is more sobering. "The idea that the Internet itself is a threat to authoritarian regimes was a bit of delusional post-Cold War optimism.
Richard Reeves, author of an acclaimed work on President Kennedy, has joined other leading historians in criticizing President Bush's executive order last fall that tightened access to presidential records of previous administrations. Currently working on a book about President Reagan, Reeves held up an index of government documents that he has been prohibited from seeing. "There's great determination to prevent these papers from ever becoming public," he said.
"Between them, the authors of the incendiary new book Into the Buzzsaw, out this month from Prometheus, have won nearly every award journalism has to give -- a Pulitzer, several Emmys, a Peabody, a prize from Investigative Reporters and Editor, an Edward R. Murrow and several accolades from the Society of Professional Journalists," writes book reviewer Michelle Goldberg. "One is veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration and a best-selling author, another is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.
"Wars often have had a profound impact on journalism," writes former journalism professor Betty Medsger. For example, the trend toward "news as entertainment" began with the war in the Persian Gulf in early 1991 when "the military, prepared by its 1980's marketing classes in how to sell a war, set new restrictions and higher levels of censorship that guaranteed coverage would be controlled by the military." That trend continues today, as "marketing practices honed by the Pentagon in the brief Gulf War now seem to be the standard M.O.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has issued a special "RCFP White Paper" chronicling the effects the "war on terrorism" has had on media coverage. Available as a free PDF download, the 34-page report outlines actions taken over the last six months by state and federal government agencies that limit the ability of journalists to do their jobs.