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Report: ID and Fed Governments Keeping More Secrets

September 4, 2007

Boise , ID – Secrecy is becoming a more common theme for government, according to a new report that tracks how state and federal governments keep information from the public. Report coauthor Patrice McDermott, with the watchdog organization OpenTheGovernment.org, says "National Security Letters" are examples of secrecy about which Idahoans should be concerned. She explains the letters give the government access to private and business information without court approval. Even if you think you have nothing to hide, adds McDermott, any information gathered about you stays on file indefinitely.

"At any point in your life, you may have somebody come knocking on your door just because your name got scooped up in one of these National Security Letter investigations."

McDermott says at least 200,000 of these letters have been used to gather information about people, although she says the government is keeping the exact number -- secret. The report claims another growing form of secrecy has to do with the way some government contracts are awarded. She cites companies overcharging for services after Hurricane Katrina and/or in Iraq as prominent, recent examples.

"A quarter of all government contracts undergo no competition at all. It hurts small businesses, and it hurts start-up companies."

The Idaho legislature has passed several "secrecy" bills in the name of terrorist attack preparation; McDermott says those cases are appropriate reasons for government to keep information under wraps. The full report is available online, at http://www.openthegovernment.org.

Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - ID