Shattuck Plan Seeks New Info Policies
In an effort to reverse the Reagan Administration's tight policy on information control, two top Harvard administrators this week released a report calling on President Bush to overhaul federal practices involving the dissemination of information.
The 32-page statement calls for a "Presidential Initiative on Information Policy" that would limit the government's right to restrict the publication of scientific research and would expand public access to information on executive decisions.
The report was written by Vice President for Government and Community Affairs John Shattuck and Director of Policy Analysis Muriel Morisey Spence '69.
"We hope this will make people in Washington, especially on Capitol Hill, think about how, under the new administration, there can be a move away from the secrecy and constraints on information we've seen in recent years," Spence said.
During the past several years, Harvard has led the nation's universities in opposing what it views as harmful restrictions on the free flow of information that were introduced by the Reagan Administration. Since 1985, Shattuck has released two other statements criticizing the government's tight controls over the release of scientific data.
The new report goes beyond Shattuck's previous initiatives in outlining a blueprint for specific changes in federal policy.
The plan calls for the revision of the current system of labeling as "classified" scientific information whose release officials believe might endanger national security, and urges a lifting of restrictions on the export of unclassified technical data.
"The short-term benefits of [the current] policies are outweighed by substantial long-term costs to the economy, the national defense and the democratic tradition of open government," the report says.
Spence said that Reagan Administration actions such as preventing technical papers from being read at international conferences have had a "chilling effect" on science.
"Harvard is a major research university, and therefore, even more than some institutions, it is affected by constraints on information flow," she added.
This week's statement also calls for the Bush Administration to notify Congress and the public of proposed executive orders and national security directives in time to allow discussion of such plans before they are enacted.
As newly-inaugurated president, Bush can take advantage of "the unique leadership opportunity that comes at a time of presidential transi-
Shattuck-Spence Report Highlights
."Government policies almed at...controlling...information and ideas are ultimately self-defeating."
The President should: .Review classification of sensitive information, keeping in mind the public's right to knowledge of government activities.
Modify restrictions on the communication of unclassified data to allow U.S. scientists and business to benefit from new Information. tion" by launching the information policyinitiative, the report suggests.
Bush could start by releasing statementscalling for free access to information "except ininstances of demonstrable and substantial publicnecessity," as well as recommending thatinformation policy decisions be made jointly withCongress, the plan says.
A White House spokesperson could not confirmwhether Bush aides had received a copy ofShattuck's proposal.
"Our concern about information policy comes inthe context of concern about a vastly expanding,and, in our opinion, over-expanding, notion ofwhat constitutes national security," Spence said."We're urging people to ask questions aboutwhether national security as it was expansivelydefined in the Reagan years is being overused as ajustification for constraints on informationflow."
The Benton Foundation, a Washington-based groupthat seeks to change information policy, requestedthat the report be written and is responsible forits distribution, Spence said