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MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Officials second-guessing information given to public

Some people in Washington have too much time on their hands and too little regard for the public's right to know what government is up to.

On its Web site, the Federal Aviation Administration posted and then removed a transcript of a public hearing in which pilots criticized no-fly zones around Washington. Air Force Maj. Gen. M. Scott Mayes, who is in charge of air defense for the mainland United States, feared that sensitive information might have been disclosed about air security, according to Scripps Howard News Service.

A spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command said it's necessary to review what was discussed at the hearing. But the information was in the public domain from the very moment the hearing was held. Because it's been on the Internet, you can bet that somebody out there has a copy of it. Any review should have been done before it was posted.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported last month that for seven years, intelligence agencies have been withdrawing documents in the National Archives from public access. Historian Matthew M. Aid found that the reclassified documents included dozens that he copied years ago and some that the State Department had published in its own history series, "Foreign Relations of the United States." Again, the cat was already out of the bag. And most of the documents are from the Korean War and Cold War eras, unlikely to have much impact on today's national security.

Such frivolous secrecy undermines the government's credibility when, on occasion, it has a legitimate need to withhold sensitive information.

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