Home
In this issue
April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 29, 2009 / 5 Iyar 5769

Public's Right To Know?

By Tony Blankley


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Several events in recent months bring back to the forefront the perennial assertion that, on grounds of both efficacy and ethics, the public's "right to know" is the best guide to good government and good institutions. Indeed, the Obama administration prominently displays on the White House's Web site a presidential memorandum: "MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES


"SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government


"My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government."


Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis gave impetus to this reasonable proposition with his observation that "sunlight (on public policy matters) is the best disinfectant" against corruption. Perhaps ironically, Brandeis also is credited with being the father of the constitutional "right of privacy" as it applies to individuals.


But, of course, some publicly held information should not be disclosed (e.g., the military's nuclear secrets), while some private information should be open to public view (e.g., evidence of individuals' criminal conduct).


While it may be justified for the government to have — as a general default — policy regarding the public's right to have routine information disclosed (see the Freedom of Information Act), in any particular factual setting, the principle of "right to know," or "transparency," is not much of a guide.


Consider four recent controversial events:


1. The advanced announcement of the bank "stress tests" by the Treasury Department.


2. The non-disclosure at the time of the Henry Paulson/Ben Bernanke "threat" to fire Bank of America's CEO, Ken Lewis, if he didn't complete Bank of America's purchase of Merrill Lynch.


3. The release of the terrorist interrogation memorandums.


4. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's public disclosure that the U.S. government considers the possible fall of Pakistan's government to the Taliban as a "mortal threat" to the U.S.


Each of those disclosure/non-disclosure decisions has been sharply contested. And in none of them is the general principle of transparency a useful guide.


In the first instance, most financial experts and commentators have argued that the level of public and market cynicism is so high that if the government says the banks passed, it won't be believed and that if it flunks a bank, some will suspect that bank is a scapegoat offered up to try to convince the public that the tests were legitimate. This problem was compounded by the fact that the government announced the tests but said it would not release individual data. However, when pressured, the government has released information publicly on a slow-motion basis.


A pretty strong case could be made that transparency was a mistake from the start on these stress tests. The Treasury could have run the tests privately and then publicly taken whatever actions the tests indicated were necessary.


In the second instance, Paulson (and Lewis) are being criticized fiercely for arguably violating the law that required disclosure of Merrill Lynch's perilous condition to Bank of America's shareholders and the public. Offsetting that transparency argument is the (to me, convincing) point that if the public knew how bad the financial conditions were at the time, the world might have suffered an even graver economic meltdown than we are in the process of enduring.


The third — and currently the most furiously contested — disclosure decision is the release of the interrogation memorandums. My point here is not to argue the merits in detail. (As I have said elsewhere, I am emphatically with most intelligence experts and, according to the Rasmussen poll, the majority of the public in opposing the decision to release the memorandums.)


Rather, it is clear that with the country harshly divided, the decision's supporters' merely pointing to the general principle of transparency and the public's right to know makes a woefully insufficient argument. Yet the public's "right to know" has been the weak foundation of the argument — even against the obvious, specific harm that was done.


Finally, was Secretary of State Clinton wise to reveal publicly that if Pakistan goes Taliban, it is a "mortal threat" to America, which, I assume, is a serious State Department assessment? As a matter of judgment, as I wrote in this space a few weeks ago, a nuclear "Talibanistan" would be shockingly dangerous to us and the world. But for the secretary of state to call an eventuality a "mortal threat" — a phrase I cannot remember being used by a high official — at the same time that the administration is on background admitting that its options are limited creates the worst of conditions. If we are not prepared to block a mortal threat to our nation, we look to the world as a hapless giant.


The gravity of the situation could have been alluded to without revealing that private government assessment, which makes us look weak and foolish by our subsequent inaction.


In these and so many other critical government decisions, often the more important "right" may well be the public's "right" not to know.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Archives


Tony Blankley is executive vice president of Edelman public relations in Washington. Comment by clicking here.

© 2009, Creators Syndicate

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles