Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We’ll Tell You Everything, But First We Need to Talk About What We’re Going to Tell You

I read this article the other day and thought it was laughable:
Yahoo, Verizon: Our Spy Capabilities Would ‘Shock’, ‘Confuse’ Consumers

Basically, the story is about Yahoo! &Verizon refusing to divulge information that should be available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Verizon's justification for not providing it is that the information “might confuse” the American public. Their concern is touching. But shouldn’t the public be the ones to make the determination of whether or not it is confusing? After all, if it “might confuse” the public, it also “might not”. Either way, is that a legitimate reason to say “No” when the law says “Yes”?

Even more ridiculous is Yahoo!’s stance: “'Therefore, release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies,' the company writes.”

So, let me get this straight. The American People have the right to information unless it will make an organization look bad.

Oh. Okay.

I was scratching my head after reading that, wondering where these guys get off coming up with this kind of stuff. And then I read the below article and suddenly I remembered; they learned it from the United States Government: PROMISES, PROMISES: A closed meeting on openness

To spare you from having to read the entire article, it basically describes how the government is having a meeting about “openness”, and as proof that they are both serious and that they know what they’re talking about, the meeting is closed to the public.

“The closed conference will provide tips for FOIA public liaisons on communicating and negotiating with people who make requests, and introduce the new Office of Government Information Services to them, said Melanie Ann Pustay, director of the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy, which takes the lead on government openness issues.”

Really. And what “tips” would be needed to respond to a FOIA request? Hey! Here’s one: provide the information. And what needs to be “negotiated”?

“Pustay said she planned to say the same things at the private workshop that she would say publicly. She offered these reasons to explain why it was closed: She wanted government employees to be able to speak candidly, and the conference would be in an auditorium at the Commerce Department, where she said a government ID was required to be admitted. The AP and others news organizations routinely enter government buildings to cover the government.”

Well, if she really planned to say the same things, what would it hurt to have a couple of reporters there? And what would government employees not be able to talk about in an open session that they would be able to discuss in a closed one? Perhaps, oh . . . . I don’t know, things that they don’t want to discuss in front of the public? You know, things that might “lead to impairment of its reputation”?

“Pustay said she is looking for ways to improve how the government responds to information requests, which costs roughly $400 million each year.”

Maybe the public would be able to provide some “tips” on how to do that. If they were allowed to attend, that is.

“The director of the new Office of Government Information Services, Miriam Nisbet, said the event was closed to make sure there would be room for all the government employees attending.”

This just sounds like a bad joke:
Q: How many government employees were at the meeting?
A: All who attended.

Sorry, there’s just no room. Can’t fit even one more person in. Nope. Not even one. Not a square to spare.

"I can understand skepticism anytime a meeting for government people is not necessarily open to the public," Nisbet said. "However, everything that is discussed there is absolutely available for the public to know about."

“Not necessarily”? Are you kidding me? What kind of people even say things like that? Do they actually think it makes any sense?

No worries, though. Ms. Nisbet has assured us that everything in the closed meeting - er, . . . I mean, the "not necessarily open" meeting - will be available for the public to know about.

Unless it won't.

1 comment:

Tony said...

I guess there's the simple explanation: if these people keep getting reelected, then their constituancy must be satisfied. It's sad that some are so easily satisfied. Or duped?