Administration Secrecy Obstructs GAO Energy Inquiry

Last week, the General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report culminating a contentious struggle to identify who helped craft the administration’s energy policy. While no startling revelations come from the document, GAO's report repeatedly rebukes the administration for withholding critical information. Vice President Dick Cheney refused to turn over critical documents to GAO investigators and stymied the GAO inquiry. GAO eventually filed suit with the Washington, D.C. district court to gain access to documents in February 2002. When the court dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, GAO chose not to appeal. GAO does report that various administration officials- the Vice President, the Secretary of Energy, the EPA Administrator- met with and solicited advice from non-federal entities during the policy drafting process. According to the report, the Vice President met with Enron executives and the Secretary of Energy met with the CEO’s representing a broad spectrum of the energy industry, including Chevron. Although the report cites these interactions, GAO could not conclude how much influence those meetings had on the administration’s energy policies. In conducting its research, GAO encountered exceptional obstruction. David M. Walker, the agency’s comptroller general, told he Los Angeles Times, "This is the first and only time that we have not been able to work out a reasoned and reasonable accommodation to get information that we need to do our job." Expanded government secrecy may increasingly prevent GAO from carrying out its mission. The report concludes GAO’s work on the energy policy task force. However, the issue may not be over for Vice President Cheney. The U.S. District Court is expected to rule on a lawsuit -- filed by Sierra Club and Judicial Watch -- seeking to force the vice president to disclose the very documents he successfully kept from the General Accounting Office.
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