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Who Gets the Not-So-Coveted Rosemary?

President Richard Nixon's loyal secretary Rose Mary Woods demonstrates in 1973 how a crucial Watergate tape recording may have been erased.
President Richard Nixon's loyal secretary Rose Mary Woods demonstrates in 1973 how a crucial Watergate tape recording may have been erased. (Associated Press)

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By Al Kamen
Monday, March 13, 2006

The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced next month. The next most esteemed prize is the National Security Archive's Rosemary Award, to be announced today to kick off "Sunshine Week," so designated by advocates for more government openness.

The Rosemary honors President Richard M. Nixon 's secretary, Rose Mary Woods , whose contortionist stretch at her desk caused her to "accidentally" erase 18 1/2 minutes of the tape of a key Watergate conversation.

And the winner of the hotly contested second annual Rosemary? The Central Intelligence Agency, which archive director Thomas S. Blanton hailed for "the most dramatic one-year drop-off in professionalism and responsiveness to the public" in 20 years of monitoring compliance the Freedom of Information Act. The CIA's "performance markers that clinched the 2006 Rosemary," he said, include:

· Although the agency handles only 0.08 percent of FOIA requests of federal information, it has four of the 10 oldest pending requests. Some are so old they could get drivers' licenses.

· After stalling for 15 years on a request from a small Pennsylvania newspaper for records on a convicted arms dealer with ties to the intelligence community, the agency responded last year that it had "no records" on the matter.

· "More creatively," the archive said, the CIA said it could "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of records on the relationship between Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden , even though hundreds of such documents have been released by other agencies.

Last year's winner, the U.S. Air Force, was defeated this year in the Rosemary race because it hired new senior staff, reached out to people seeking information and began to clear up its backlog.

The Winnah in Correcting News Releases

Seems Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist 's office is trying to be extra careful these days in its news releases.

On Monday, at 6:07 p.m., we got an announcement that Frist had promoted Robert G. Stevenson to be his "senior communications adviser." Stevenson had been his communications director since 2003. Amy Call , deputy communications director, moved up to director.

Twelve minutes later, a "corrected" release came by. We looked and looked and couldn't figure out what had changed. Then we spotted it: Stevenson was not to be an adviser, but Frist's "senior communications counselor."

"Counselor," as Loop Fans know, is the preferred honorific in Washington these days, as it evokes images of Washington wise men such as Clark Clifford or Lloyd Cutler .

The next day, ABC News Deputy Political Director David Chalian spotted this Frist release: "FRIST SUPPORTS INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE'S EFFORT TO INVESTIGATE NSA TERRORIST SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM."

Just a little bit later came the corrected version: "FRIST SUPPORTS INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE APPROACH TO CONDUCT OVERSIGHT OF NSA TERRORIST SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM."

So Frist was in support of a congressional investigation before he opposed it?

Labor Dept., the Prose May Be Anti-

For many decades, the Labor Department had been seen as basically in lock step with organized labor's views on employment issues such as workplace safety, wages and benefits.

But that is so 20th-century thinking. There's a new spirit at the department, judging from a June 15 e-mail from Lynn Gibson , an aide in the public liaison office that alerts people to a training opportunity.

"The next [noteworthy item] is a new website, if you were not already aware of it," she says. "The website is dedicated to providing information on labor unions and their expenditures. UnionFacts.com launched on Monday, February 13th, and some news links are listed below."

Turns out, according to a linked article by our colleague Amy Joyce , this is a stridently anti-union site that talks about the "political activities, and criminal activity of the labor movement." The site lets members check their union's "shady tactics" and highlights how to bust a union's right to represent workers at a company.

The site is run by Richard Berman , a lobbyist behind many fun campaigns, such as one dismissing concerns about mercury in fish, another against efforts to lower the legal blood-alcohol content limit, and one that says concerns about obesity are "hype."

Berman also heads the Center for Consumer Freedom, founded with tobacco company and restaurant money to fight smoking curbs in restaurants, and founded the Employment Policies Institute Foundation, which opposes raising the minimum wage.

To paraphrase the old car ad, this is not your father's Department of Labor.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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