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Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Contacts: Lisa Finkel (Wyden)
Katie Callahan (Moynihan)


Senators Unveil Proposals to Increase Openness in International and Domestic Institutions

Washington, DC - To highlight the far-reaching implications of secrecy in international and domestic policy making, U.S. Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today released a joint-report on government secrecy. The report, Secrecy in International and Domestic Policy Making: The Case for More Sunshine, examines the sweeping impact government secrecy has on a wide array of issues important to the American people.

"The World Trade Organization came into being only recently, on January 1, 1995. With its 138 members -- and soon, we hope, two more with the admission of China and Taiwan -- the WTO has in five short years become a vitally important institution. While some of its operations are open, many that could be are not. I welcome the Administration's announcement yesterday that they have presented another proposal to the WTO's General Council to open meetings and dispute settlement proceedings and to 'derestrict' many documents. To be sure, more needs to be done, but we have set ourselves on the right course," Moynihan said.

"Residents from Pendleton, Oregon to Poughkeepsie, New York can turn on their local public access television and watch some obscure governmental subcommittee on acoustics and ventilation, but they can't watch the Food and Agriculture Organization or the World Trade Organization hammering out new regulations on water quality and food labeling. There is no good reason why people should not have access to information about important decisions that affect their daily lives," Wyden said. "Senator Moynihan and I would like to raise the veil of secrecy from government proceedings and ensure that these crucial decisions are conducted out in the open."

The Moynihan-Wyden report shows that on vital matters from trade to determining interest rates to the environment, organizations as diverse as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Federal Reserve Board regularly conduct important business behind closed doors. At the Senators' request, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service found that in 1998, of the 1,524 closed meetings cited in the Federal Register under the Sunshine in Government Act, more than one in 10 were closed without any specific statutory authority.

To help pull back the veil of secrecy and shed some light on these critical decisions, Moynihan and Wyden made the following policy recommendations:

Moynihan, the Senate's leading scholar on secrecy issues, is the author of Secrecy: The American Experience, an expansion of the report by the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. Moynihan, as Chairman of the Commission, led the first comprehensive review in forty years of the Federal Government's system of classifying and declassifying information and granting security clearances.

For a full copy of Secrecy in International and Domestic Policy Making: The Case for More Sunshine, please contact Lisa Finkel at 202/224-5244 or Katie Callahan at 202/224-2668.


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