Shhhh! Before you continue reading, dim the lights and draw the shades. Although these pages do not endanger lives or unmask secrets, they could be declared too sensitive for you to read. Who would have guessed America's freedom of the press and open government laws would be wounded in the war on terrorism?
Artieles from Proceedings and other open-source publications were among many documents the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) included in the public access file on nonlethal weapons that it compiled for a related study. The trouble began when the NAS suppressed the entire file—under the auspices of a security review—after a watchdog group asked to see particular documents early last year. Some documents were released months later, but most stayed hidden throughout 2002. The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), an open government law, requires the NAS to provide public access to the file. Instead, the academy demonstrated how easily President George W. Bush's policy to safeguard "sensitive," unclassified information can defy common sense in practice.