Just How Sunny is Sunshine Week?

 

Submitted By Lawrence Rafferty, (rafflaw), Guest Blogger

I know what you may be thinking. What is that crazy title all about? It wasn’t discussed much in the Corporate Mass Media, but this past week was dubbed, Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week was supposed to celebrate “open Government practices”. I for one, wasn’t convinced that our government had any “open” practices. The Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1966 and it was designed to allow individuals the right to find out exactly what government was doing on our behalf. The Act has been amended on several occasions and it has aged with mixed results.

“The 2011 Knight Open Government Survey reveals some cloudiness in the Obama administration’s open government policies. The survey measured government agency performance in responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, a 1966 law that allows the public (that includes you) to ask for access to government documents. This year, the Knight Foundation found that of the 90 government agencies responsible for responding to FOIA requests, 49 have actually complied with processing the requests. “  ACLU  To be fair, this meager result is actually an improvement from the prior year when only 13 agencies followed the law laid out in the FOIA procedures.

In 2009 President Obama gave a directive to agencies that he claimed would make governmental agencies more responsive to FOIA requests. White House Open Government Directive   While the ACLU, as stated in the article linked to above, congratulated the President on his directive, the results still fall short of the “presumption of openness” that the directive was promoting. We have seen far too many times the government use National Security as their excuse for redacting whole documents or for refusing to disclose any information pursuant to a FOIA request.

In fact, the ACLU just published an article complaining about the Government’s continued refusal to provide Americans any information concerning two Justice Department memos that presumably discussed the Office of Legal Counsel’s explanation and legal justification for the now infamous NSA secret wiretapping episodes during the Bush Administration. “The memos, a May 2004 memo authored by the former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel Jack Goldsmith and a November 2001 memo from John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, are most notable for what they don’t reveal. The memos are heavily redacted.” ACLU National Security

This same article rightfully took President Obama to task on this attempt to dodge the spirit of the FOIA by not disclosing these important documents. ‘“Despite a much-trumpeted commitment to transparency and accountability, the Obama administration has continued to shield the surveillance practices of the past from meaningful scrutiny. Nearly a decade after President Bush authorized a set of intelligence activities that almost led to the resignation of the attorney general, the FBI director and other Justice Department officials, the American public still knows virtually nothing about what it was that President Bush authorized.”’

It seems perfectly clear that while the Obama Administration may have made some headway in making government more transparent, it’s performance leaves much to be desired. The bottom line may be that as long as you are asking for documents that do not show the government in a bad light or actually document illegal activity, you have a “chance” of getting what you asked for. If you are asking for anything remotely related to alleged national security, you have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting full documentation of what you request.

So if you are requesting information related to the Patriot Act and its abuses, don’t hold your breath. If you are asking for information about the treatment of detainees by the Pentagon or the treatment of immigrants in the hands of ICE, you will be waiting several lifetimes and maybe longer to receive any significant information. The Obama Administration is completely forthright about anything that it does not mind that you see! 

Additional Sources: Knight Open Government Survey;  ACLU Guide to FOIAPrivacy Act of 1974;   Government in Sunshine Act;   FOIA 1996;

Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty, Guest Blogger

33 thoughts on “Just How Sunny is Sunshine Week?

  1. Elaine,

    Those Afghanistan Kill Team photographs should be published as should the photos from Abu Ghraib. And any torture interrogation tapes not previously destroyed by the CIA. The world should see what US citizens are buying with their trillions.

    Because the “national security” ruse would restrict publication indefinitely, the only way the world will see images like these is with the assistance of whistleblowers and principled media organizations like Wikileaks. Count on government to pursue both relentlessly.

  2. rafflaw,

    I thought you might find the following article interesting:

    US Army ‘kill team’ in Afghanistan posed with photos of murdered civilians
    Commanders brace for backlash of anti-US sentiment that could be more damaging than after the Abu Ghraib scandal
    Jon Boone
    The Guardian
    Monday 21 March 2011
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/21/us-army-kill-team-afghanistan-posed-pictures-murdered-civilians

    Excerpt:
    Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of “trophy” photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed.

    Senior officials at Nato’s International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world.

    They fear that the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year.

    Some of the activities of the self-styled “kill team” are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians.

    Five of the soldiers are on trial for pre-meditated murder, after they staged killings to make it look like they were defending themselves from Taliban attacks.

    Other charges include the mutilation of corpses, the possession of images of human casualties and drug abuse.

    All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

    The case has already created shock around the world, particularly with the revelations that the men cut “trophies” from the bodies of the people they killed.

    An investigation by Der Spiegel has unearthed approximately 4,000 photos and videos taken by the men.

    The magazine, which is planning to publish only three images, said that in addition to the crimes the men were on trial for there are “also entire collections of pictures of other victims that some of the defendants were keeping”.

    The US military has strived to keep the pictures out of the public domain fearing it could inflame feelings at a time when anti-Americanism in Afghanistan is already running high.

    In a statement, the army said it apologised for the distress caused by photographs “depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States”.

  3. I know that most every one here has a law degree or some connection to Prof. Turley and his career. But I found my way here from watching Keith Olbermann. I found Prof. Turley to be intelligent, informative, congenial, funny, and able to explain very well things I did not have any background in. I thought that is what I would find at his blog. For the most part, I learn a lot of things by hanging out at this site. But, I am growing very weary of this Federal Government employee bashing. I worked for the Ferderal Government for 32 years. I am neither lazy nor stupid. I gave my employer a full day’s work for a full day’s pay–not to mention paying my own state and Federal taxes every year like every one else. I probably pay more in taxes than any one here because there were few loopholes that I could take advantage of. So, I have paid my fair share of taxes with little or no effort to get out of paying them.

    The problems with our Government do not rest with the people trying to do their jobs well just as I assume you all do in your jobs. The problems usually come from the political appointees, who, until G. W. Bush was President, hardly had any impact on my life. Because of Bush’s effort to destroy the Government so that he could prove Norquist’s theory that Government doesn’t work, the ability to get my job done became harder every day for the 8 years he was in office, which is why I retired. The only truly stupid and lazy people I met were the political appointees under Bush. There were possibly one or two worthless employees there; but, I found that true in the other career fields I worked in before my Federal career–retail sales and the food and beverage business. The rest of us were always able to work around them doing the bulk of the work; but, doing good work at all times. When a Republican Congress person says that Government doesn’t work, he or she should be asked some very point blank questions as to what we are paying them for if they are there to make Government work and they are not achieving that goal. It seems to me there is no need for Congressional senators/representatives if they are not going to make Government work. They ARE the Government.

  4. Sunshine Week?

    Bwaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahah!

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! snort snurfle guffaw bwahahahahahahahahah!

    …..hahahaha…….ahahahahahhaaaaaaaaaaa…….aaaaaaaaaaaaa

    ….oops….sorry………….hahahahaha…..

  5. Anyone who does not take the hacker group Anonymous seriously is living in a dreamworld. Ask the people at HB Gary about their kilo-thousands of emails. Or Scientology. Or any number of targets who have been disrupted by DDoS attacks.

    From what I have seen so far, they do not make claims about a target until AFTER the target is compromised. For example, they did not announce HB Gary was being targeted until they were in possession of those emails. Same with the big banks. They had the goods, then announced the target. The banking data dump is supposed to start tomorrow. The target is believed to be Bank of America, but the actual target is still a matter of speculation. That secrecy has a caused a lot of big banks and banksters worldwide to have a clenched sphincter problem.

  6. is believed to have bid on and successfully won the contract to develop an unnamed software from the US Air Force. This software will be known as “Metal Gear” for informational purposes.

    We believe that Metal Gear involves an army of fake cyber personalities

    and

    I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky. I dream about it night and day spread my wings and fly away 🙂

  7. On a related topic, I just responded to our current resident troll, Maury, on another thread. I then began reading some reports on other sites about the software acquired by USAF intelligence and had been a project of HB Gary and other contractors. This software allows a single operator to troll websites and target online discussions which they wish to disrupt. The software also allows them to collect data, undoubtedly in violation of the 4th Amendment, gathering a database of who they might want to target for harassment or arrest in the future. The group Anonymous has dubbed this “Operation Metal Gear.” More here:

    http://anonnews.org/index.php?p=press&a=item&i=752

    http://anonnews.org/index.php?p=press&a=item&i=752

  8. Rafflaw – I would argue that the smaller government has a more limited operating arena in the first place, and is also constrained by fewer resources, budget and capability to hide its actions.

    The national security state being put in place by the US federal government is far more capable of operating in dark secrecy than state and local governments. This is a real argument against centralized powers.

    I agree with you that incompetence – and the desire to obscure it – is a trait of governments of all sizes.

  9. puzzling,
    The size of the government doesn’t matter. They will try to hide stuff that shows illegality or is just embarassing to them,no matter what the size.

  10. Want to know whats going on in a Governmental Agency….go to work for the….then you’ll have all of the dirt…

  11. Governments are inclined to secrecy by their very nature.

    Secrecy hides government incompetence, limits government criticism and obscures widespread illegitimate and illegal activities that governments undertake. The smaller and more limited a government is, the more this inclination is restrained.

Comments are closed.