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VerDate 0ct 09 2002

11

Thank you again, Senator Cornyn, for the privilege of appearing before you today. Senator CORNYN. Thank you, Ms. Cary. I appreciate your being here. Ms. CARY. Thank you, sir. [The prepared statement of Ms. Cary appears as a submission for the record.] Senator CORNYN. Mr. Mears, we would be glad to hear from you.

STATEMENT OF WALTER MEARS, FORMER WASHINGTON BU- REAU CHIEF AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS, CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA

Mr. MEARS. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today in familiar territory. I spent more than 40 years as an Asso- ciated Press reporter, editor, and Washington Bureau Chief, and so I am no stranger to Congressional hearing rooms, but this is my first experience on this side of the table. With that, another dis- claimer. I am not an expert on the legal aspects and the fine print of freedom of information law. I hope that you will allow me to in- terpret my franchise broadly so that I can speak about what I know best, which is the crucial importance of the free flow of infor- mation about government to the people.

Too many people in government have an instinct or acquire an instinct to limit that flow because they think that things work bet- ter without people they regard as nosy outsiders prying into what they regard as their business. It is not their business. It is all of our business. That is what a free democratic government is all about, and you can’t have one unless people know what is going on behind government doors. I believe that as a reporter and I believe it today as a retired American watching government from a dis- tance.

President Bush spoke to Russia’s President Putin at the Kremlin about the need for free press in a democracy. What was true at the Kremlin also is true in Washington. The free flow of information is vital to a free press and to a free people.

There is a difficult balance to be kept in this, especially since September 11 brought home to us all the menace of terror in our midst. No reporter I know would demand or publish anything that would serve the purposes of a terrorist. The problem in times like these is to judge what would or would not weaken America against terrorism.

Tom Curley, the President of the Associated Press, observed that the United States was attacked in large part because of the free- doms it cherishes, and Tom said that the strongest statement we can make to an enemy is to uphold those values. They would be upheld by the OPEN Government Act of 2005.

Knowing that you will hear from people far more expert than I on the detailed provisions of the bill, I would like to offer some comments about the findings that preface it, the first of them being that the informed consent of the voters, and thus the governed, is crucial to our system of self-government. That was the mission that guided me through my career as a political reporter, from the State House in Vermont to the Capitol to the Presidential campaigns I covered for the AP.

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