You may recall that a few weeks ago the Office of the US Trade Representative announced that they had reached an agreement with the European Union, Canada and Japan in the ongoing World Trade Organization dispute over our ban on online gambling. Analysts estimate that the arrangement will cost American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in compensation payments to those other nations, but the USTR refused to release the actual text of the agreement so we could find out how much of our money they’re spending to indulge their authoritarian fantasies.
I immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the agreement and, predictably, the USTR is denying that request. And just in case you thought this administration had hit rock bottom on making dishonest and mendacious arguments to maintain the secrecy of their actions in contravention of Federal law, let me disabuse you of that notion by reprinting the letter I received today:
Dear Mr. Brayton:
This is USTR’s response to your request for “a copy of the full text of the settlement between the USTR and the European Union regarding America’s online gambling laws”, under the Freedom of Information Act.
Please be advised that the document you seek is being withheld in full pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1), which pertains to information that is properly classified in the interest of national security pursuant to Executive Order 12958.
Inasmuch as this constitutes a complete grant of your request, I am closing your file in this office. In the event you are dissatisfied with USTR’s determination, you may appeal such a denial, within thirty (30) days, in writing…
Yes, they are actually claiming that this document, which has nothing even remotely do to with anything that could conceivably, in Dick Cheney’s wildest imagination, have anything to do with national security, has been properly classified. Americans, according to this administration, have no right to know how many billions of our tax dollars they’ve spent with no legislative authorization whatsoever in order to buy the cooperation of other nations and allow them to continue to violate the rights of American adults by preventing them from gambling in the privacy of their own home.
Yes, I will be filing an appeal immediately, and I will be filing a lawsuit if that appeal fails to restore some sanity to the situation. They’ve got me pissed off now.