Both work for Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization in Washington, and neither is getting what he wants.
But advocates for open government say we appear to have entered a dark new era of secrecy. They note:
Government officials say there's a good reason why so much more is being kept secret. The Sept. 11 attacks forced them to re-evaluate information that was once considered public, and balance the public's right to that information with national security interests.
"Unquestionably, agencies look at information now through a post-9/11 lens," said John Nowacki, senior counsel for the Justice Department.
The withholding of information touches many areas of American life. The American Society of Newspaper Editors is spearheading a drive to declare today Sunshine Sunday, the kickoff of Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know. Backed by a wide array of media groups, Sunshine Week is meant to focus on the issue of the public's right of access to government information.
Among those stung by increasing secrecy are advocacy groups like Public Citizen, auto safety groups, historians, environmentalists, firefighters and others. All are concerned that lack of access to important public information could keep them from doing their jobs.
Arkush, from Public Citizen, has filed suit to get information collected from the TREAD Act of 2000, passed in response to the explosions of Firestone tires that were linked to at least 100 deaths. Under the act, automakers must submit to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data on warranty claims, property-damage claims and other information on the safety of each vehicle.
But NHTSA has refused to make the information public, saying it includes confidential business information. Arkush says NHTSA can't be trusted to appropriately analyze the data.
"NHTSA has a long history of failing to monitor the auto industry carefully, and Congress intended the public to be able to hold NHTSA accountable," said Arkush, an attorney with Public Citizen. "We would do a similar analysis as they do, and if we spot any potential manufacturing defects, we would petition them to do something."
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which uses public records on accident data in its road-safety reports, has found it harder to access certain kinds of information gathered by states. Susan Ferguson, the institute's senior vice president for research, said the group sometimes likes to interview drivers to get more details on accidents. But that's been tough.
"There are times you would like to talk to people and try to understand what went on, and many states aren't allowed to give you personal information," she said.
Presidential records are also harder to access these days because of an executive order issued by Bush shortly after taking office in January 2001. The order allows former presidents and vice presidents to veto the release of their records and appears to trump the Presidential Record Act, which states the National Archives must release policy-related records after 12 years. Bush's order led to a legal fight that delayed the release of 68,000 pages of Reagan-era records.