An FOI Request = The New American Thought Police? See, This is why I was Worried About Blowback…

Krugman in the Times today:

So we don’t need to worry about Mr. Cronon — but we should worry a lot about the wider effect of attacks like the one he’s facing.

Legally, Republicans may be within their rights: Wisconsin’s open records law provides public access to e-mails of government employees, although the law was clearly intended to apply to state officials, not university professors. But there’s a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn’t like.

Someone like Mr. Cronon can stand up to the pressure. But less eminent and established researchers won’t just become reluctant to act as concerned citizens, weighing in on current debates; they’ll be deterred from even doing research on topics that might get them in trouble.

A tad bit overheated? Sure. But it’s just this sort of focus on the results of an FOI request, with no thought given to why such laws are so important in the first place, that gives me pause. If both parties start using FOIA to carpet-bomb one another, the bipartisan value of open government loses fans. And that worries me.

 

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