Sometimes it’s the small abuses scurrying below radar that reveal how profoundly the Bush administration has changed America in the name of national security. Buried within the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 is a regulation that bars most public access to birth and death certificates for 70 to 100 years. In much of the country, these records have long been invaluable tools for activists, lawyers, and reporters to uncover patterns of illness and pollution that officials miss or ignore.Perhaps I should change my blogging moniker to Cato and end every post with "Ceterum censeo Bush Administration esse delendam."*
In These Times has obtained a draft of the proposed regulations now causing widespread concern among state officials. It reveals plans to create a vast database of vital records to be centralized in Washington, and details measures that states must implement–and pay millions for—before next year’s scheduled implementation.
The draft lays out how some 60,000 already strapped town and county offices must keep the birth and death records under lock and key and report all document requests to Washington. Individuals who show up in person will still be able to obtain their own birth certificates, and in some cases, the birth and death records of an immediate relative; and “legitimate” research institutions may be able to access files. But reporters and activists won’t be allowed to fish through records; many family members looking for genetic clues will be out of luck; and people wanting to trace adoptions will dead-end. If you are homeless and need your own birth certificate, forget it: no address, no service.
*The sad irony is that although I say this in jest, the Bush administration takes the war metaphor quite seriously. When George W. Bush ran for President in 2000 a pamphlet entitled the Art of Political War, written by David Horowitz, was distributed to every Republican member of Congress and to 2,300 conservative activists nation wide. On the cover was an endorsement from Karl Rove. In it, Horowitz says
You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can do it only by following Lenin's injunction: "In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent's argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth."