Tuesday, February 19, 2002

The Bush Administration doesn't like loose talk. From anybody. It's no surprise that they're withdrawing previously declassified documents, some going back as far as the 1940s, from public access. But they're going further:

For instance, the White House has asked the American Society of Microbiology, the world's largest group of germ professionals, based in Washington, to limit potentially dangerous information in the 11 journals it publishes, including Infection and Immunity, The Journal of Bacteriology and The Journal of Virology.

One White House proposal is to eliminate the sections of articles that give experimental details researchers from other laboratories would need to replicate the claimed results, helping to prove their validity.

"That takes apart the whole foundation of science," Ronald M. Atlas, president-elect of the society, said of omitting methods. "I've made it reasonably clear that we would object to anything that smacked of censorship. They're discussing it, and I wouldn't rule out them doing something."

He added that he was surprised by the number of his colleagues in academia who seemed willing to discuss publishing limits. "I think it undermines science," he said.

Nor are they fond of awkward inquiries; a journalist who recently made what should have been a routine FOIA request got his press credentials revoked; a DOJ officer is rumored to have openly bragged about that at a FOIA training seminar run by the DOJ.

But some people like to distribute subversive information. Like librarians. It's a good thing that the PATRIOT act limits the extent to which they can hide their activities.

(Links from Phil Agre's invaluable Red Rock Eater News Service).


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