Appreciating the value of open government

Published 8:52 pm Thursday, July 29, 2004

By Staff
Arthur McLean
Regardless of your views on the 9/11 Commission and what its report may contain. It proves again that we live in the freest nation in the world.
Within hours of the release of the commission's report, the Atmore Advance fax machine hummed to life with a fax from the U.S. Government Printing Office, located in Washington D.C.
Contained within that fax was all the information you could need to get your very own copy of the 9/11 Commission's report in any one of a variety of formats.
Nearly a full page detailed how you could download an electronic version of the report in a format call PDF. The PDF has become one of the most widely used computer file formats to send, receive and read documents created on nearly any kind of computer, using nearly any kind of program. The PDF viewer is free to download and use and it is nearly ubiquitous. It comes already installed on most modern computers.
For those who wanted a paper version of the report, detailed information on how to receive your very own copy was also listed on this fax, and at the GPO website. Everything from office location and hours, ordering information via regular mail, email, even a toll free number.
Now, filter out for a moment political motivations and influences, conspiracy theories and the like, and break this down to the basic parts.
Here we have a commission, appointed by our government representatives, that investigated, including a number of open hearings and is now publicly publishing its findings, going so far as to notify every news outlet in the country.
With a high-speed Internet connection, it took me less than two minutes to fire up the browser and download the whole document.
Nowhere else will you find such a level of disclosure, at least not without U.N. peacekeeping troops standing guard at the doors.
And we have, political leanings aside, allowed this to happen as a natural, perfectly logical and necessary undertaking. Were this to happen just about anywhere else, you'd likely have the makings of a violent revolution in the streets.
Is this public self examination potentially embarrassing? Yes. Is it painful? Certainly. But there are lessons to be learned here for all governments large and small that want to hide their workings away from the people. Openness is freedom.
You can download the report at
Arthur McLean is the editor of the Atmore Advance.

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