From the Washington Post:
Also last week, it emerged that the government ... has removed from the U.S. Agency for International Development Web site remarks by an administration official that had badly understated the cost of Iraqi reconstruction.
There are reasons why governments, including ours, should keep secrets. Obviously, clear interests of national security is a good reason. But the removal of previously public statements that turn out to be politically inconvenient doesn't sound like it's based on a good reason.
Our democracy depends on openness and equal access to information. If an official makes a mistake in a public statement, he should correct that mistake in a later statement. Going back and erasing the erroneous statement is absolutely the wrong thing to do. It reminds me of a scene from George Orwell's 1984 -- the government proclaiming, "Good news, the chocolate ration has increased this week," while in fact it had decreased -- but all record of the prior ration amount had been expunged.
It certainly doesn't enhance the credibility and trust that our government agencies need in order to operate effectively as our representatives.
The right thing to do in this case is for the agency to issue a statement explaining their action -- it could have been an innocent mistake. In that case, the agency should clarify its commitment to handling public statements in an appropriate, open manner.