Obama promised transparency, delivered secrecy

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

Candidate Obama promised transparency. President Obama talks as if he has delivered it. People paying close attention know he hasn’t. Mike Riggs at Reason magazine lays out Obama’s pattern of secrecy, especially with regard to national security.

The meat of Riggs’ article:

While the Obama administration invested big money in redesigning old government websites and launching flashy new ones such as and, it continued to behave like its predecessor on transparency issues of consequence. In the first year of Obama’s presidency, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury were sued by Bloomberg News, Fox News, and The New York Times for withholding documents related to the Wall Street bailout. The CIA and the National Security Agency were sued by the Electronic Freedom Foundation for refusing to release documents detailing internal lawbreaking. Agencies across the executive branch recorded 466,872 FOIA denials, an increase of 66 percent over Bush’s last year in office. …

[O]ther decisions from early in Obama’s presidency show the ways in which this administration has actively worked to preserve Bush-era secrecy.

The case Riggs make is pretty strong. I’ve been making this case since Obama spiked his Transparency Czar position in 2010 and handed that portfolio over to a partisan lawyer with a long history of open antagonism towards transparency.

Obama administration officials held off-site meetings with lobbyists to avoid having to disclose them. They asked lobbyists to use personal emails. They divvied up ObamaCare to various industry lobbyists behind closed doors and refused to produce the emails in the negotiations. I wrote about some of these moves in this column.

I noticed this week, that after his Export-Import Bank gave record portions of its subsidies to Boeing, and handed well-timed subsidies to companies in states the Obama campaign was pursuing, Ex-Im changed the way it publishes the minutes of its board meetings: The publicly available minutes no longer include the exporter benefitting from their subsidy deals.

It’s very clear that Obama puts a low priority on transparency.

That’s why it was so striking when Riggs found transparency advocates hustling to defend Obama’s actions. Riggs reports:

Why has the president turned away from transparency? Theories abound. One transparency advocate I spoke to in January blamed security hawks in Congress, Democrats and Republicans who “won’t let” Obama open up government. When I asked him why he thought Obama didn’t just buck the objections and do what he promised, the transparency advocate said it would be “politically risky.”

Talk about being in the dark.


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