AP: Obama meant ‘most secretive’ White House ever when he promised ‘most transparent’

Obama NSA

The Associated Press, that infamous right-wing propaganda machine, has once again looked at the Obama administration’s record on transparency. Since that was one of the big sells of “Hope and Change” in 2008, I applaud AP. Unfortunately, it once again turns out that open and accountable government to the White House is viewed along the lines of “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan” — only this time it’s “if you like transparency, you can keep transparency.”

The Associated Press reported:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has a way to go to fulfill its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.

More often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press. …

In a year of intense public interest over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times – a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama’s first year, when it cited that reason 3,658 times. …

The AP’s request to the Health and Human Services Department for contracts with public-relations companies to promote Obama’s health care law has been pending for more than one year. Requests for files about the Affordable Care Act and the IRS’s treatment of tax-exempt political groups have languished in government offices for months. Similarly, the AP has waited for more than 10 months for emails between the IRS and outside Democratic super PACs about tea party groups.

Seems kind of weird that documents for a non-scandals would “languish” in government limbo if there was only innocuous drivel behind the curtain.

Perhaps Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy has it right:

“I’m concerned the growing trend toward relying upon FOIA exemptions to withhold large swaths of government information is hindering the public’s right to know,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It becomes too much of a temptation. If you screw up in government, just mark it `top secret.'”

Ouch. First the Associated Press, and now a U.S. senator from the White House’s own party admits that public’s right to know is being hindered. Unfortunately, most people aren’t too excited about covering or reading about yet another big broken promise because it’s uncomfortable to own up and say, “I was duped.”

When the president literally said he believed his election would mark the moment in time when the rising oceans began to recede, millions of people actually believed him. They put their faith in a single charismatic young man whose appeal was largely contingent upon his soaring vagueness, and now that the scary specifics have been filled in they sit silent.

Question: How weird is it going to be when Harry Reid accuses Patrick Leahy and the Associated Press of being in the Koch brother’s pockets?

The Labyrinth: Find the Obama admin’s secret email accounts — if you can

AMPAS Gold Standard Series
In 2008 and 2012 voters put into office a man who promised to usher in a new era of transparency when it came to the federal government. Who knew that transparency requires secret email accounts that the government will try and charge you $1 million dollars for, in violation of the very mechanism (i.e., Freedom of Information Act) that is supposed to help individuals keep federal officials honest.

The Associated Press Reports:

The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: Most U.S. agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses. …

The secret email accounts complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions. …

Courts have consistently set a high bar for the government to withhold public officials’ records under the federal privacy rules. A federal judge, Marilyn Hall Patel of California, said in August 2010 that “persons who have placed themselves in the public light” – such as through politics or voluntarily participation in the public arena – have a “significantly diminished privacy interest than others.” Her ruling was part of a case in which a journalist sought FBI records, but was denied. …

Obama pledged during his first week in office to make government more transparent and open. The nation’s signature open-records law, he said in a memo to his Cabinet, would be “administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”

Wrong. President Obama meant: “When in doubt, charge people $1 million dollars, and then back track if they call you on it.”

This past weekend my brother emailed me in response to my piece on insurance companies. My response touched on the effects of an ever-expansive federal bureaucracy:

From what I gather on health care, the more regulations that have been passed, the more the kind of crap we’re dealing with metastasizes (to stick with the medical terminology). Just like everything else, there will always be greedy or corrupt people, but the more hallways and corridors the government creates, the more places there are for such individuals to hide their unscrupulous sides. We’re not inside the companies or the federal government agencies connected with them, so we can’t zoom out to 30,000 feet to see the labyrinth. They know this. They know that there are few policy experts who get it, and those people work at places like Heritage or Cato or wherever … so their reach is limited. And since most of those experts are data heads, they don’t know how to explain it in ways the man on the street can understand. They can’t reference ‘Fight Club’ or some random other movies to help people make the connection. They start talking in acronyms and using charts and graphs and numbers and before you know it the “Average Joe” throws up his arms and goes to play the newest ‘Gears of War’ on his XBox.

Why does the Tea Party exist? Why did Occupy pop up? Why does Anonymous exist? The reason is because the government labyrinth is so complex and so dizzying that the worst parts of human nature are hiding in its shadows with all the confidence in the world that it is immune from accountability. But it isn’t. People are angry and frustrated because they know that this sort of thing isn’t right. Their anger is now exponentially exacerbated because President Obama didn’t just run for office as a change agent — he wanted you to believe he was the ultimate change agent.

Right now the anger is muted because instead of admitting the truth there are millions of Obama voters who are still deluding themselves. Instead of focusing on an administration that wire taps the Associated Press (I wonder why?) and denies or drags its feet on Freedom of Information Act requests, the kids have convinced themselves that the world needs to address gay marriage or abortion laws that were settled by the Supreme Court about a half-century ago.

Get ready for Project Mayhem, because every week that passes suggests that the powers that be are not interested in returning to our founding principles, and the more divorced we get from those principles the more likely it is that it will all end very, very badly.

This is your fearless space monkey signing out.

Best,

Doug