‘Senator Secrecy’ blocks open government bill

On the bright side, it’s getting more difficult for senators to remain anonymous when they put a “hold” on legislation in an effort to delay or kill it.

On the downside, though, individual senators sometimes show little shame even after they’ve been outed as the culprit behind an anonymous hold.

Take Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.

A normally sensible fellow, Sen. Kyl came forward last week and identified himself as the man behind an effort to scuttle the Open Government Act, which would make it easier for citizens to use the Freedom of Information Act. Sen. Kyl had used his prerogative to place a hold on the measure, but was forced to reveal his identity after backers of the bill launched an e-mail and Internet campaign to identify “Senator Secrecy.”

(A similar campaign last year smoked out the two senators — Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. — who were anonymously attempting to entomb earmark reform.)

But even after being drawn out from the shadows, Sen. Kyl has refused to back down. His hold remains in place.

Sen. Kyl is apparently carrying water for the Justice Department, which has raised objections to the bill. But changes made in committee — including the deletion of a provision limiting the authority of law enforcement agencies to deny access to information on the grounds it was privileged or too sensitive — should be enough to assuage any major concerns.

Sen. Kyl should back down and make his case on the Senate floor.

Open government is a cornerstone of our republic, and the Freedom of Information Act is a vital tool in the constant battle to impose accountability on the bureaucracy and our elected officials.

The taxpayers deserve better than game-playing on legislation as important as the Open Government Act. Move it to the full Senate.

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