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Four First Ladies take issue with separating kids from families at the border. Also on the rundown: Nebraska struggles to deliver summer meals and there are thriving rural counties in the USA.

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Report: TN and Fed Governments Keeping More Secrets

September 4, 2007

According to a new report, the government is keeping an increasing number of secrets from the public, on both the state and federal levels.

Report coauthor Patrice McDermott, with the watchdog group OpenTheGovernment.org, says so-called "National Security Letters" are an example of secrecy about which Tennesseans should be concerned. The letters authorize all kinds of information to be gathered without judicial oversight; they permit homes and businesses to be searched without a person's knowledge or consent. McDermott says perhaps the worst part about the letters is that, even if a person is innocent of wrongdoing, whatever information is obtained can stay on file permanently.

"At any time, an individual could be targeted because their name was mentioned in one of these National Security Letter investigations."

She claims at least 200,000 National Security Letters have already been used to gather information, although the government is keeping the exact number secret. The Tennessee legislature has passed several "secrecy" bills in the name of terrorist attack preparation, which she says can be a legitimate reason for the government to keep information under wraps.

Another growing trend cited in the report is the tendency for government contracts to be secretly awarded. McDermott explains this can lead to abuse when companies overcharge for their services. Such instances have already made headlines during investigations into contracts for the Hurricane Katrina cleanup and the war in Iraq.

For more information on McDermott's report, visit www.openthegovernment.org.

Deborah Smith/John Robinson, Public News Service - TN