In the litany of violations of public trust and accountability by the Bush administration, a last round of restrictions on access to information under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, hardly ranks with, say, warrantless wiretapping. But it is sadly characteristic of an administration that has insulated itself from scrutiny at every opportunity.
A recent report by ProPublica and the Columbia Journalism Review identified a host of ways in which the administration is making it harder for the public to access records heretofore more readily within reach. The Department of Energy wants to eliminate a rule that allowed it to release documents if it concluded that they would serve the public interest. The Department of Education has expanded its authority to refuse release of materials even after they are redacted to remove students' names and identifying information. Other agencies are raising fees for processing and copying. The Securities and Exchange Commission wants to charge $70 an hour for processing some requests -- not that anyone would want to study the efficacy of regulation and enforcement in the stock market.