WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union charged Tuesday that the Bush
administration is placing science under siege by overzealously tightening restrictions
on information, individuals and technology in the name of homeland security.
The administration “has sought to impose growing restrictions on the
free flow of scientific information, unreasonable barriers on the use of scientific
materials and increased monitoring of and restrictions on foreign university
students,” the ACLU said.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks the government has actively increased the
use of classifying information to keep it secret, including the use of the category
“unclassified but sensitive” and extending classification authority
to more departments, the ACLU said.
Robert Hopkins of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy criticized
the ACLU for seeking to politicize the issue.
“The report chooses to criticize actions taken to address security concerns
in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack,” Hopkins said. “The administration
has worked in good faith with serious members of the science community, including
the National Academies, to determine the best way to enable the conduct of science
without providing terrorists with a road map for pursuing their aims.”
Indeed, the National Academy of Sciences delayed publication of an article
at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services over concerns
the paper could provide terrorists information on poisoning the milk supply.
Negotiations over the report are continuing.
But the ACLU contends that the administration has been overzealous, reversing
past government openness by creating a presumption of secrecy and lengthening
The report lists other science restrictions, including limiting the access
of foreign scholars to information, restricting their participation in some
areas of research and tightening visa rules with the result of blocking or delaying
visits to this country by foreign students and teachers.
And the ACLU charged the administration with trying to suppress information
on such topics as global warming, mercury emissions and emergency contraception.