Independent Christian Voice

Friday

AP: GOP wants to create (another) secretive gov't agency

My first question is simply, why? Why must it be secret?

AP — By creating a federal agency shielded from public scrutiny, some lawmakers think they can speed the development and testing of new drugs and vaccines needed to respond to a bioterrorist attack or super-flu pandemic.

The proposed Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, or BARDA, would be exempt from long-standing open records and meetings laws that apply to most government departments, according to legislation approved Oct. 18 by the Senate health committee.

Those exemptions would streamline the development process, safeguard national security and protect the proprietary interests of drug companies, say Republican backers of the bill. The legislation also proposes giving manufacturers immunity from liability in exchange for their participation in the public-private effort. [...]

But it is the secrecy and immunity provisions of the legislation that have alarmed patient rights and open government advocates. The agency would be exempt from the Freedom of Information and Federal Advisory Committee acts, both considered crucial for monitoring government accountability.

"There is no other agency that I am aware of where the agency is totally exempt either from FOIA or FACA," said Pete Weitzel, coordinator of the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government. The coalition is an alliance of journalism groups, including the American Society of Newspaper Editors and Associated Press Managing Editors, that wrote to lawmakers seeking amendments to the bill. "That is a cause for major concern and should raise major policy concerns," Weitzel said. [more]

If recent history has taught us anything it's that the last thing we need in our government is more secrecy and lack of public scrutiny and accountability. Is this not supposed to be a free, democratic nation whose government is "of the people, by the people, for the people"? That concept seems as distant as the time since these words were first spoken in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

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