Saturday, March 04, 2006

Sizable increase in secret federal court cases

The AP reports that the number of federal court cases that are either fully or partly sealed has doubled in the last two years.

And in some cases the administration is resorting to unprecedented "secret dockets", where the mere existence of the case is officially denied.

Sealing records makes sense up until the trial, and that practice draws no criticism. What is unusual -- and damaging to the justice system -- is keeping records sealed after a trial has concluded.
Prosecutors argue that plea agreements must be sealed to protect witnesses and their families from violent retaliation. But Christ said that makes no sense after the trial when the defendants know who testified.


It's enough to make even a moderate scream "What is it with these guys?!" Yet one more example of the Bush administration's penchant for obsessive secrecy -- an obsession that has begun leaking out of the White House and Cabinet-level positions and into the everyday workings of the government.

To repeat: Excessive secrecy damages democracy, the justice system, foreign policy, the government, and a host of other national interests. It goes against the presumption of open government and the Sixth Amendment guarantee of public trials. It serves no purpose other than to shield government operations from public scrutiny.

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