Are the media waking up to this administration’s duplicity?
It’s hardly the image of transparency the Obama administration wants to project: A workshop on government openness is closed to the public.
The event Monday for federal employees is a fitting symbol of President Barack Obama’s uneven record so far on the Freedom of Information Act, a big part of keeping his campaign promise to make his administration the most transparent ever. As Obama’s first year in office ends, the government’s actions when the public and press seek information are not yet matching up with the president’s words.
“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails,” Obama told government offices on his first full day as president. “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”
Obama scored points on his pledge by requiring the release of detailed information about $787 billion in economic stimulus spending. It’s now available on a Web site, http://www.recovery.gov. Other notable disclosures include waivers that the White House has granted from Obama’s conflict-of-interest rules and reports detailing Obama’s and top appointees’ personal finances.
Yet on some important issues, his administration produced information only after government watchdogs and reporters spent weeks or months pressing, in some cases suing.
Those include what cars people were buying using the $3 billion Cash for Clunkers program (it turned out the most frequent trades involved pickups for pickups with only slightly better gas mileage); how many times airplanes have collided with birds (a lot); whether lobbyists and donors meet with the Obama White House (they do); rules about the interrogation of terror suspects (the FBI and CIA disagreed over what was permitted); and who was speaking in private with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (he has close relationships with a cadre of Wall Street executives whose multibillion-dollar companies survived the economic crisis with his help).
The administration has refused to turn over important records. Obama signed a law that let the Pentagon refuse to release photographs showing U.S. troops abusing detainees, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates then did so. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has refused to release details about the CIA’s “black site” rendition program. The Federal Aviation Administration wouldn’t turn over letters and e-mails among FAA officials about reporters’ efforts to learn more about planes that crash into birds.
Just last week, a State Department deputy assistant secretary, Llewellyn Hedgbeth, said at a public conference that “as much as we want to promote transparency,” her agency will work just as hard to protect classified materials or information that would put the United States in a bad light.
People who routinely request government records said they don’t see much progress on Obama’s transparency pledge.
“It’s either smoke and mirrors or it was done for the media,” said Jeff Stachewicz, founder of Washington-based FOIA Group Inc., which files hundreds of requests every month across the government on behalf of companies, law firms and news organizations. “This administration, when it wants something done, there are no excuses. You just don’t see a big movement toward transparency.”
Those with any sense of decency, any sense of moral rightness, any common sense, will see this administration for what it is… and the fact that the AP is doing so, finally, is truly heartening.
What many of us have known since the campaign last year is becoming known by more and more as each day passes.
We’re led by radical cadre of hard core leftists hell bent on changing this country not for the good but for the furtherence of their agenda using every means possible but especially duplicitousness and deception.
Hats off to the Associated Press for a refreshing piece of reporting.