chklt_opgov_100: Open Government

A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.

—James Madison

We're the only branch of government that explains itself in writing every time it makes a decision.

— Byron R. White, speaking of the United States Supreme Court

Throughout this country's history, national security has often been used as a pretext for massive violations of individual rights. In the name of national security, President Jefferson countenanced internment camps for political dissidents; President Wilson authorized the round-up and deportation of thousands of foreign-born suspected "radicals" during the Palmer Raids; and President Franklin Roosevelt interned 120,000 Japanese Americans. The Cold War era brought loyalty oaths, blacklisting and travel restrictions; the Vietnam War era saw the government's attempt to censor the "Pentagon Papers". None of these measures were actually necessary to preserve national security; all of them violated civil liberties.

Since September 11, 2001, our government has introduced countless new security measures as part of its "war on terrorism." Unfortunately, many of these new measures are either ineffective, unnecessary, or both, and they violate civil liberties principles. Whether we are looking at secret arrests and detentions, national ID cards, facial recognition technology, military tribunals, the USA Patriot Act, racial profiling, or the TIPS program encouraging people to spy on one another, we see security measures that will not stop terrorism, but will require us to give up our freedom. Terrorism, by definition, is not just intended to kill and destroy, it is also intended to make us act in fear, and make choices against our best interests. The United States was founded on the principles of freedom, justice and equality; if we give up these beliefs because of fear, then terrorists will have won.

Open government is a cornerstone of democracy that enables advocates, activists and the press to monitor government performance and expose corruption. Without transparency in government activities, the American people are vulnerable to deception and abuse by our leaders.

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