Bureaucratic ooze has engulfed a popular daily calendar that for many years has informed the public where senior officials at the Agriculture Department spend their time and with whom.
The daily schedules of Agriculture Secretary Clayton Yeutter and his top aides were last published on July 19. Efforts by news organizations that regularly cover the department to have them reinstated have been denied.
"There's no requirement for us to produce a calendar such as that," said Kelly Shipp, director of the department's Office of Public Affairs. "If you want to know who is meeting with whom, you're more than welcome" to file under the Freedom of Information Act.
Long before the FOIA, the creaky old department was something of a model of openness. Of course, there were and are secrets. Reporters are in peril of life and limb if an attempt is made to crack the "lockup room" where crop reports are prepared. And television monitors keep track of visitors hanging around the secretary's office.
In an interview with Associated Press and United Press International, Shipp said the canceling of the daily appointments calendar was an internal matter and "you're just making too much out of it." She said Yeutter did not make the decision to cancel.
"It was a decision made at a lower level," she said.
The daily calendar was canceled for three basic reasons, Shipp said. It was not accurate, she said, and there are difficulties switching to a new computer system. Another reason is security.
Daily schedules were floated all over Washington, allowing lobbyists, market speculators, foreign interests and intelligence gatherers of all sorts to note the comings and goings at the department.