By Kevin Wright - Roswell Daily Record

Please note the following column appeared in the May 19th edition of the Roswell Daily Record and is republished with permission.

By Kevin Wright

“A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” ~ James Madison, fourth President of the United States (1809-1817), letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822.

Established by and for the people, the Constitution enumerates and guarantees certain individual rights and provides the basic legal structure of our federal, democratic republic form of government.

Through democratic means, we empowered ourselves to act as our government’s most significant check and balance. We influence and direct the affairs of our government through the officials we elect to represent us and the authorities we delegate through public law under the constraints established by the Constitution.

Just as much a “great experiment” now as it was in 1790 when  George Washington called it, there is no guarantee this framework of governance or the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights will continue without the people’s vigilance.

On the last day of the Constitutional Convention, September 18, 1787, James McHenry recorded in his journal: “A lady asked Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin, Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy – A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.”

The Founding Fathers knew well that what they had created was fragile and that the people were the only guarantors of the new republic. They also knew the only way the people could keep their new republic was to be educated and well-informed.

In a letter to Charles Yancy, dated January 6, 1816, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States (1801-1809), wrote: “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was & never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty & property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”

In our republic, information and the ability to use it is power, which creates a natural tug between the branches of government and the electorate. That is one reason why the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) was signed into law in June 1946. Section 3 of the APA was the first attempt to make “matters of official record” of the government’s operations available to the public.

Although section 3 of the APA was “clearly intended” to provide the public with information, the executive branch used the authorities it was provided to withhold rather than disclose information. With too many exemptions, the APA did not result in a genuine “general public records law.” A decade after enactment, Congress found “improper denials” of public records occurred “again and again.”

So, in 1966, Congress removed section 3 from the APA and passed a “true Federal public records statute,” now commonly known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), to “protect the right of the public to information” about the executive branch and its records.

Congress added nine exemptions to the FOIA to assuage concerns by then-President Lyndon Johnson, first among them his desire to protect “information that is properly classified under criteria established by an Executive Order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy.”

Rep. John E. Moss (D-CA), the FOIA champion of the time, harkened to the Founding Fathers, noting the Constitution guaranteed free speech and a free press but that these rights were not “empty rights.” He wisely said on the floor of the House of Representatives: “Inherent in the right of free speech and of free press is the right to know.”

The “right to know,” indeed. As I’ve previously written in the Roswell Daily Record, our government keeps too many secrets, evading our right to know. It’s worth repeating: the government, particularly the executive branch and its departments and agencies involved with defense and intelligence, is not wholeheartedly interested in your right to know and puts a stopper on releasing much of any information to the public unless it sees a public relations benefit. That’s the truth.

The executive branch routinely hides behind an impenetrable legal shield of national security, using the well-worn excuse of “sources and methods” to justify its secrecy. The sheer volume of classified information suggests that the government is more interested in protecting itself from the people — or saving itself from embarrassment — than protecting the people. The secret keepers’ worldview is more Machiavellian than Jeffersonian in its methods and desired outcomes.

Yet, truth and transparency are fundamental to our democracy—secrecy, classified documents, and the “need to know” criterion are all antithetical. The public’s right to know about Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) falls victim to the government’s typical deflections and obfuscation. Worse, the FOIA is sometimes used as a weapon against the public, where government officials wield the exemptions of the Act to withhold information rather than being compelled by the Act’s presumption of openness.

Case in point: The Black Vault, operated by John Greenwald, Jr., has filed over 10,000 FOIA requests with various government agencies and published over 3.3 million pages of government files online. An area of interest to the Black Vault is the UAP issue.

According to Greenwald, on September 7, 2022, in response to a two-and-a-half year FOIA request for video of UAP, the US Navy “denied the release of all UAP videos” because they were “classified and are exempt from disclosure in their entirety under exemption 5 USC § 552 (b)(1) in accordance with Executive Order 13526 and the UAP Security Classification Guide.” Let that sink in. The US Navy denied the public release of every piece of visual evidence of UAP due to, of course, national security. This is nonsense.

The list of UAP records denied by departments and agencies of the executive branch is too numerous to catalog. With only a handful of exceptions, the government has not provided data, photos, or videos of UAP in its possession, dating back to at least the 1940s. For example, some records from Project Blue Book remain classified despite the passage of nearly 55 years when the US Air Force closed its public investigation in 1969.

It has been more than a year since the military shot down the intelligence-gathering surveillance balloon sent from China and other unidentified objects in US and Canadian airspace. Except for one image of the Chinese spy balloon from the cockpit of a jet, no other photos or videos of any other objects have been made public.

The secrecy surrounding this subject, dating back decades, is mind-numbing.

In debating the passage of the FOIA in 1966, Congress concluded, “The needs of the electorate have outpaced the laws which guarantee public access to the facts of government. In the time it takes for one generation to grow up and prepare to join the councils of government – from 1946 to 1966 – the law which was designed to provide public information about government activities has become the government’s major shield of secrecy.” Again, Congress said this almost 60 years ago. Two generations have grown up since.

It is as accurate today as it was on June 20, 1966, when the House passed the FOIA, that the government has turned a law intended to further the public’s right to know into a “major shield of secrecy.” As was the case then, it is time for Congress to address this metastasizing cancer of secrecy.

Keeping the public uninformed about UAP or other issues is antithetical to the great experiment of our republic. And we, the people, must take charge and compel Congress to act. That is how our republic works and what we must do if we wish to keep it. Call your elected officials, write the editor of your local paper, organize your community, demand greater transparency, and defend your right to know the truth from your government.