Friday, November 15, 2002

Censorship by other means. White House budget director Mitch Daniels wants to save taxpayers $70 million a year by transferring authority over the publication of public documents from the Government Printing Office to individual Cabinet agencies. At least that's what he says. But according to this editorial in the Los Angeles Times, the real effect would be to make it far easier for the executive branch to edit out anything it finds embarrassing or inconvenient. (Thanks to PB for the link.) Here's how it would work, according to the Times:

Currently, a federal agency such as the Pentagon can't delete an embarrassing passage from a historical document without first going through the hassle of asking each reading room to obscure the passage with a black marker.

If Daniels gets his way, all an agency will have to do is call up the document in Microsoft Word and quietly hit Control X to delete the passage for eternity.

It amounts to the perfect censorship scheme: take a system that has worked since the era of Thomas Jefferson and trash it in the name of budget-cutting and efficiency. And do it in such a low-profile manner that few people other than the most inside of insiders have any idea of what's going on.

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