Greenwald: Government Secrecy and the Political Fix

sunshine-week-logoSpeaking out during Sunshine Week, attorney and civil rights advocate Glenn Greenwald drills down to the political nature of our current government secrecy problem. “There is a tendency to dismiss these issues,” he says, speaking broadly about our national bipartisan failure to engage the critical ethical and legal implications of a decade of opaque policy-making.

As long as civil liberties is this plaything between the two parties – where Republicans pretend to want limited government and fear their government when there’s a Democratic president, but then cheer for every expansion of executive power when there is a Republican; or progressives claim that our constitution is being shredded when the president can eavesdrop on, or detain people without due process, but then are perfectly content when the president, if he’s a Democrat, can assassinate you without due process, as long as that happens there will be no progress. We needs to happen is that people begin to view these issues in a trans-partisan way… adherence irrespective of party.

The implications for secrecy and our nation’s national security imperative are not only theoretical. And it’s not just federal. Beverly Hills has invited and gladly accepted Department of Homeland Security grants to install license plate readers and security cameras throughout the city. We’ve not had any real discussion about whether an omni-surveillance environment actually makes us safer, much less whether it solves the quality-of-life problems that confront us daily. It is not addressed in our Homeland Security and Disaster Strategic Plan nor boasted about in our city’s 2012 accomplishments.

Likewise, our city has one of the most draconian city email non-retention policies: 30 days and they’re gone. That helps shield city communications from public records requests, of course.

Didn’t know we have a Homeland Security Plan? It’s not posted on the website. (Our Beverly Hills Sustainable City Plan (2009) isn’t posted either.) Didn’t you know that we destroy city emails after 30 days? That policy has been in place for nearly a decade, and our City Council by a vote of 3-2 decided not to revisit it. Maybe the one goal for Sunshine Week 2014 is to get all of our adopted plans up on the web and our city email preserved for more than a month.