Hollywood was primed when Karl Rove, the senior Bush strategist, came calling. ... Mr. Rove made the case that Uncle Sam needs Hollywood to lend its creative talents to the national struggle by encouraging community service, boosting public morale, and entertaining the troops and by reinforcing the official stance that America is at war with terrorism and evil, not with Islam.
If you want to know if any toxic wastes dumps are near where you might soon buy a home, you can no longer find out. If you want to know just what is really being done to keep nuclear power plants safe, you can no longer find out. If you are interested in the design and construction of dams, you probably will not be able to get any information about them from the government any more. If you want to visit the reading rooms provided by many government agencies, such as the IRS, you now must make an appointment, and you will be chaperoned.
"Taken individually, each of the new national security policies adopted by the Bush Administration in recent weeks has its pros and cons, its potential excesses and mitigating factors," observes the Secrecy News, a publication of the Federation of American Scientists.
"Not since Richard Nixon went to work in the Oval Office has there been so concentrated an effort to keep the real work of a president hidden, revealing to the public only a scripted leader," observes former White House Counsel John W. Dean, whose testimony to Congress helped blow the lid off the Watergate scandal. "Such secrecy invites us to wonder what is being hidden, and why. I know from first-hand experience that a president acting secretly usually does not have the best interests of Americans in mind. Rather, it is his own personal interests that are at stake."
The United States is engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity and presidential speeches designed to rally support for the war, which has begun to slip internationally. Even in Britain, America's most reliable ally, support for war has fallen from around three-quarters to two-thirds. And in the Muslim world, observes the Economist, "The burden of proof has shifted: America is being asked to prove it is not waging war against Islam."
Special agents in the United States probing relatives of Saudi-born terror suspect Osama bin Laden before September 11 were told to back off soon after George W. Bush became President, according to Newsnight, the BBC's current affairs program. The US strategic interest in Saudi Arabia, which has the world's biggest oil reserves, may have blunted its inquiries into individuals with suspected terrorist connections.
Despite repeated assertions by President Bush and his top advisers that their global campaign against terrorism will be a "new kind of war," the biggest recipients of the new weapons spending sparked by the September 11 attacks will be the usual suspects: big defense contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The "wartime opportunists" are "on high alert," writes William Hartung.
Congress is on the verge of passing a new law (H.R. 3160) that would block public access to information about the US biological defense program under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Secrecy will do little to protect public safety, since extensive information has already been widely published about bioweapons agents, most of which are naturally-occurring. The Sunshine Project explains the public relations agenda behind the drive for secrecy, which may have more to do with protecting corporate reputations than public safety.
While US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells US television that Afghanistan is "not a quagmire," British Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, has been talking with his White House counterpart, Karen Hughes, about how to maintain public support for a protracted campaign.
The Bush administration has belatedly deployed its forces for a propaganda war to win over the Arab public. But the campaign, intended to convince doubters that the American attacks on Afghanistan are justified and its Middle East policy is evenhanded, has so far proved ineffectual. Thousands of words from American officials, it appears, have proved no match for the last week's news, which produced a barrage of pictures of wounded Afghan children and of Israeli tanks rolling into Palestinian villages.