President sees the light on secret government

The September 11 terrorist attacks on America, which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children, have made all Americans feel more vulnerable than ever before, and with that vulnerability has a come a need to be told the unvarnished truth about what else can be expected from this country's enemies.
We may not be able to do much to stop a repeat of the death and destruction that was visited upon New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania by the Islamic extremists who hijacked four jet planes and turned them into killing machines, but just sharing in the information that President Bush and other federal government officials may have could at least prepare us for what may come.
We are well aware that at times of national emer gencies the people's right to know ceases to be inviolate, but there is nothing to be gained from the White House imposing a veil of secrecy over every aspect of the war on terrorism.
Last week, President Bush issued an order that limited classified briefings to just eight senior leaders in Congress because he was angry that information was leaked to the press dealing with the administration's belief that a retaliatory strike against the United States for the on-going bombing campaign in Afghanistan is inevitable.
Bin Laden: The president argued that making such information public is counterproductive and could undermine the campaign to bring the world's mastermind of terrorism, Osama bin Laden, and his henchmen to justice.
We are hard-pressed to understand why the American people should be kept in the dark about the White House's assessment of how bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization could respond to the American and British airstrikes against terrorist training camps and suspected hideouts in Afghanistan. The Taliban government, which has refused to hand over bin Laden and his associates to the U.S., has also become a target of what President Bush has described as a long-term campaign to rid the world of terrorism.
In issuing his gag order last Friday, the president argued that the success of the military, intelligence and law enforcement operations depends upon "the proper level of confidentiality." However, we believe he went too far in placing restrictions on which members of Congress could received classified briefings about the operations.
Fortunately, Bush realized that he was treading on dangerous ground and on Wednesday agreed to let members of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and even the full membership of the House and Senate receive classified information from the secretaries of state and defense.
The White House must find the proper balance between secrecy, prudence and the rights of the people in a free society when dealing with a national crisis such as the one we're facing today.
Leaks: While governor of Texas, and during his first months as president, Bush let it be known that he would not tolerate information being leaked to the press by unauthorized White House staffers. In other words, only leaks authorized by the administration's inner circle are permitted.
We are well aware that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have created an extraordinary situation insofar as the dissemination of information is concerned, but the president must make sure that secret government does not replace the openness that is the hallmark of a true democracy.