The Madison County Record May 25, 2013, 9:38am

At a time of heightened concern over terrorist attacks, it’s appropriate to have a national debate about the extent of, and legitimate limitations on, our personal right to privacy.

With security cameras nearly omnipresent in many public places and drones likely to proliferate in coming years, it behooves us to consider how much scrutiny we’re willing to tolerate before it becomes too pervasive.

Surely citizens of a free country have a right to know when we’re being watched, and by whom. Perhaps most important, we need to know that someone trustworthy is watching the watchers, to ensure that they don’t abuse their snooping privileges.

We should be especially wary of surveillance agents and advocates who resist having their own activities monitored.

For that matter, any person in a position of authority or performing a public role of any kind should expect to operate in the open with all permissible transparency (excluding delicate personnel matters, proprietary interests, genuine national security secrets, etc.).

Though asbestos trusts perform an essentially public or quasi-public function, its transactions too often are shrouded in secrecy.

While we can think of numerous nefarious reasons for an asbestos trustee to prefer dealing in the darkness, we’ve yet to hear a laudable justification for this opacity.

We’re not the only skeptics.

“With dozens of asbestos-related manufacturers forced into bankruptcy, a burgeoning swath of the legal action has shifted out of the courtroom and into a nebulous world of trusts that evaluate claims and authorize payouts with little outside scrutiny,” the Wall Street Journal noted in a March report. “By design, many are guided by teams of plaintiffs’ lawyers -- the very group that seeks money for clients and has earned billions of dollars in fees on payouts through the years.”

Just this week, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved legislation requiring certain asbestos trusts to disclose claim information quarterly and respond to information requests from asbestos litigators.

We can’t wait to hear the objections from opponents.

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