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Sunshine Week - Your Right to Know
EDITOR’S NOTE — The week of March 13 has been declared Sunshine Week by media organizations and other groups pressing for government access, contending that information is being withheld more often by officials who cite post-Sept. 11 security concerns. This is the first part of a two-part series examining the use of the Freedom of Information Act by U.S. citizens, and the government’s willingness to make its records available.

The best government is transparent
Rarely does the indignation of some elected and appointed officials get any higher than when challenged over their openness with the public.
Officials who hold important positions may not understand or agree as to reasons open meetings or records requests are made.

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Report: Government tightening information loop
Since 1998, many federal departments have been reducing the amount of information they release to the public — even as the government fields and answers more requests for information than ever, an Associated Press review has found.
The locations of stores and restaurants that have received recalled meat, the names of detainees held by the U.S. overseas and details about Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2001 energy policy task force are all among the records that the government isn’t sharing with the public.

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Military sought to close judicial hearing in Colo.
DENVER — Military officials closing access to a court hearing. Reporters barred from an Army post. Officers declining to turn over records.
In the name of national security, military officials in Colorado and elsewhere have increasingly sought to keep information from public view since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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An amazing amendment
In 45 words, founders of the United States of America captured concisely the nature of the relationship that the public expects with its government.
The 45 words are the First Amendment to the Constitution, in which are drawn five lines in the sand over which the government must not cross.

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Towns struggle with new laws for medical privacy
NELIGH, Neb. — It used to be easy for Hope Weaver to comfort friends when they were in the hospital. If she didn’t hear by word of mouth that someone needed a visit, she’d simply pick up the newspaper, tune in her radio or look at the patient list posted in the hospital’s front lobby.
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The shadow of secrecy
In 1995, this nation was churning out 3.6 million government secrets a year. Today, we have reached a stunning pace of 14 million secrets annually — a four-fold increase in a decade's time.
In fact, there are billions of official secrets warehoused around the nation, but those massive stores are dwarfed by the mountains of unofficial secrets — government information that is not classified but that we aren’t allowed to see anyway.

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Fight for open government extends to small cities, ‘regular guys’
FALL RIVER, Mass. — Ed Lambert, Al Lima and Mike Miozza never thought of themselves as activists, just regular guys.
Then an energy company announced plans to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in this small community on the Taunton River. The men — the mayor, a city planner and an engineer — had nightmare visions of gas igniting into a huge fireball on the river, and asked for government-held reports that studied the threat to the town if the plant or a tanker were attacked.
But like many people who ask for government records these days, they didn’t get what they were looking for.

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