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Feb 24, 2009

Another One Too Sensitive

I obtained a copy of another recent Emergency Message that Social Security thought was too sensitive for the public to see on its website. Here is how it begins:
Emergency Messages EM-09006 - Increased Maximum Dollar Limit in the Fee Agreement Process - Instructions Will Follow Shortly
Audience: All RCs/ARCs/ROs/ADs/FOs/BOs/TSCs/PSCs/ODIO/OIO/ODO/DCO/OTS/OAS/OPSOS/DCS/OPB/ODARHQ/ODARROs/ODARHOs
Bureaucracy is mostly a good thing, but it does have some unfortunate tendencies. One of those bad tendencies is over reliance upon secrecy. I wish it were otherwise, but being a bureaucrat carries little cachet. An otherwise humble bureaucrat can feel more important if he or she has special knowledge that cannot be shared with the public. Probably more important, if the public does not know what an agency's policies are, the public cannot complain that the agency has failed to follow its own policies. Most important still is simple timidity. Bureaucrats often make the mistake of trying too hard to avoid making a mistake. The thought is that no one ever got in trouble for being too secretive, so err on the side of secrecy.

As tempting as over reliance upon secrecy may be, it is inconsistent with good government, American tradition and the current administration's policies.

At least, Social Security has released one recent Emergency Message, not that it is important. I am not sure that it is even completely accurate in its discussion of the $250 economic stimulus payments and existing overpayments.

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