Could this be the start of a rocky road that leads to the restriction of information about the contents of other drugs and medicines, and prevent the public from knowing who is responsible when things go wrong?
The Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCory is in possession of a proposed law which effectively prevents anyone in that state from knowing who makes the drugs used in executions by lethal injections.
North Carolina is not alone in passing such legislation that prevents the public finding out information that legislators would prefer remains hidden. McCory has called his piece of legislation the Restoring Proper Justice Act. Critics if they knew what was in it would argue that it is legislation that threatens justice instead of restoring it.
This is what Dave Levine, associate Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law, calls a ‘confidentiality creep’, and he makes some valid points.
So what could this entail if it becomes law?
The Act would prohibit the publicizing of information about the manufacture, supply, and the name of suppliers of the drugs used for lethal injections. Furthermore, this act could restore the death penalty to North Carolina and allow medical professionals other than doctors to administer lethal injections.
In theory a nurse or a dentist could execute people, even if they did not have the proper training to administer the best dose to give the condemned a painless death. May be people are not bothered if somebody condemned to death suffers needlessly due to the wrong cocktail of drugs been used or an incorrectly qualified medical person been used.
However we probably should be. The covering up of cruelty or incompetence should definitely concern us.
There are strong grounds for suspecting that this act will contravene federal laws that allow for the disclosure of information about executions and those responsible for carrying them out. US citizens should be all entitled to have access to the same levels of information no matter what state they happen to live in.
This Restoring Proper Justice Act is another example of confidentiality creep, in which legislators deny the public access to information they deem to be confidential, yet they just do not want people finding out about the decisions they have made, and the consequences stemming from those decisions.
This information is not being restricted to protect the trade secrets of the drug companies involved, it is a case of the governor and his allies not wanting the people of North Carolina to have access to information they should rightfully have access to.
There is no commercial damage this information could do to the companies involved in the making of lethal injections. Instead they just want to have everything kept secret to avoid embarrassment or poor publicity.
Companies that something to hide will gladly take advantage of laws such as this one to prevent the public knowing the truth about them. Our civil rights are more important than saving the blushes of companies that are potentially doing things that are legally dubious.
Such confidentiality creep is becoming increasingly common as legislatures realize they can restrict information by declaring that it is confidential even when it should not be.
It is a threat to all of our civil rights, and our right as citizens to have access to information whenever we request it. Opposing, or supporting the death penalty is a moot point here. The point is that everyone should be weary of government attempts to restrict freedom of information.
Should the legislation get passed in North Carolina then the drugs companies that supply the drugs used for lethal injections can restrict the public’s access to information if that prevents them from having to answer awkward questions. In other states that have restored the death penalty and used lethal injections some of these executions have been botched. Now in states without confidentiality creep the public can ask for information about drugs companies. If the act is passed then the citizens of North Carolina could not do that.
Supporters of the act state that the drugs companies need their identities protected as the information that they are supplying the doses for lethal injections would lead to protests against them. Drugs companies could face the prospect of being sued by civil liberties groups, or the relatives of people that have been executed. Those are the arguments of the act’s supporters that essentially put the profits of drugs companies ahead of the right of citizens to have freedom of information.
This argument does not really hold water, as there are indications that if contractors have to provide information about the goods or services they provide to the state or federal governments then these companies will tend to charge more. Companies might cite fear of litigation or protesters as reasons for restricting information about the contracts they have yet in reality it does them no harm at all. After all they will have charged the government more for the goods and services that they provide.
We should challenge confidentially creep whenever and wherever we find it, as the more times that companies and legislatures get away with it, then they will try it whenever they do not want to discuss anything that could lead to awkward questions. They assume that what the public does not know will not hurt them. Only what the public does not know will eventually come back and hurt the public, especially when civil liberties have been eroded without any of us noticing. So it is to the public to stand up for its own rights.
Anybody that is concerned about what could happen in North Carolina should contact Governor McCory to urge his to veto the Restoring Proper Justice Act. He has the power to stop this, but if he does not know how unpopular it could be then he has no reason to veto it.
There is almost complete silence about the private sector companies involved in the framing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. The press is not making much of the fact that no information is forthcoming about an agreement that could have detrimental impacts on millions of Americans.