Obama’s Opaque Sense Of Transparency: AP Report Documents Obama Administration’s Record Secrecy and Denial Of Access To Documents

President_Barack_ObamaUnknownRemember that politician around 8 years ago who promised the most transparent Administration ever? Well, long ago, President Obama distinguished himself by withholding documents, pictures, and documents from the public and Congress. This includes the withholding of photos for the simple reason that they will embarrass the government or be used by critics like the pictures of Osama Bin Laden. (In the case of Bin Laden, it appears that the account glamorized in movies like Zero Dark Thirty may not be true and that U.S. forces allegedly riddled the body of Bin Laden with countless bullets, according to a new report). However, the Administration has gone well beyond the simply embarrassing. It has defied Congress in refusing to turn over documents to oversight committees, prompting a vote to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder be prosecuted for obstruction. (The Administration then prevented prosecutors from acting on the charge). A new analysis by the Associated Press shows what is already well known in Washington, President Obama has created the least transparent presidency in decades. The AP found that the Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

Across the categories of information and 99 agencies, last year was the worst on record for the government. In that year, the Obama Administration cited undefined national security reasons for withholding information roughly 8,500 times — a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama’s first year when the rationale was used some 3,658 times. It is not just the Defense Department and the CIA which covered most of the claims, but also the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency did twice and the National Park Service which also claimed national security exemptions.

The use of the oft-abused “deliberative process” exception was used by the Obama Administration a record 81,752 times. The government censored materials overall in 244,675 cases or 36 percent of all requests. For an additional 196,034 requests, the government simply said no information was available or the request was improper or required payment for production.

The weird thing White House spokesman Eric Schultz insisted that the damning report showed “that agencies are responding to the president’s call for greater transparency.” That seems perfectly Orwellian where the denial of records shows a greater openness.

Even Democrats in Congress has complained about the treatment of FOIA requests as well as the refusal to turn over material to oversight committee. Recently, even the most deferential member to the Intelligence Community, Dianne Feinstein, complained of obstruction and spying by CIA as her staff tried to secure documents for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Reporters are also complaining about a wholesale blocking of media requests — part of the dismal record on press freedoms that has resulted in the United States ranking 64th in the world. That was a drop of 13 spots under Obama. For a recent column, click here.

The hostility of the Obama Administration to inquiries from the public, the press, or Congress is obviously part of a broader attack on civil liberties. From surveillance to kill lists to torture, the Administration has held tightly to information that could be used by critics. Indeed, the Administration has protected officials who destroyed evidence of torture under the Bush Administration at the CIA.

If the recent report on the Bin Laden pictures is true, it offers a disturbing glimpse of the mindset in the Administration. Obama barred the release of the pictures while his Administration played up his role in approving the killing of Bin Laden. The actions of the President has been heralded by Democrats even though there was clearly no intent to capture Bin Laden. It was an assassination carried out in violation of international law after entering the territory of an ally without permission. The legality of operation led many to ask what the U.S. would do if Mexico took out a figure in San Diego or New York. However, the Administration maintained the story that Bin Laden was shot a couple of times but that his body was treated with respect and given a proper burial at sea. If the U.S. forces riddled his body with bullets, it would constitute the abuse of a corpse and violate long-standing military principles. Of course, the truth is held to deduce when the Administration is holding the evidence that would prove its own misconduct.

The same can be said with regard to the withholding got the “Fast and Furious” documents and other scandals. Those are areas where Congress has a legitimate right to investigate the moronic actions of federal officials that led to at least one death of a federal agent — and included later false or misleading statements.

100 thoughts on “Obama’s Opaque Sense Of Transparency: AP Report Documents Obama Administration’s Record Secrecy and Denial Of Access To Documents”

  1. Paul, Thanks for what you said. I agree with you that voting is important. One way to take away a lot of the influence money has on politics is to understand we still do have the power to vote and we do not have to vote R and D, just as you point out.

    Money will need to be put into allowing non legacy parties on the ballot. R and D both work hard to keep them off. Of course, we need to work equally hard to make certain everyone can vote, no matter what their income, race, creed, gender, etc. But if we put our money towards maintaining the ability to vote and the access to third party candidates on the ballots, along with elimination of voting machines (who tend to vote on our behalf for the oligarchy’s choice!) we can vote for good candidates instead of evil ones.

  2. March 17, 2014 | By Mark M. Jaycox

    “Former Church Committee Counsel and Staffers Call on Congress to Create Modern Day Church Committee”

    “Monday marks the second day of “Sunshine Week”—a week to focus on the importance of open government and how to ensure accountability of our leaders at the federal, state, and local levels.”


  3. Jill, Don’t waste your time w/ trolls. They’re voracious and never satiated, but always “eristic.”

  4. Ross, I think what you have written is very important. I was reading about our physiological response to fear. Continuous threats, in this case, threats concocted by the govt. to make us fearful, succeed. Fear stops cognition. Along with the denial of information by the govt., the lack of accountability due to much dirty work being hidden through the mechanism of outsourcing to private corporations, it is extremely difficult to know what is actually happening.

    Our press is mostly complicit so it is also difficult to find information through the work of reporters/journalists. It is strange that the fear of something which is very unlikely to occur is powerful enough to convince many, many people of the need to give up on our Constitution, to start wars of empire, to assassinate other people and torture them. Those are extremely actions to give our consent to.

  5. RTC, You have absolutely honestly, and correctly represented everything I did and said with complete and utter accuracy. Thank you for being so careful and trying in no way to discredit what I actually said, or what you actually asked for by telling lies! It tells me a lot about who you are. I appreciate that!

  6. Jill: Frankly, if you want to get snippy about it, I didn’t ask you or anyone else to do anything. You, on the other hand, are calling for masses to not only take time out of their lives, time off work, but to put their jobs and even careers in jeopardy to stage protests.

    I merely stated questions I think are relevant for critical analysis; if you want consider them rhetorical or food for thought, that’s fine. Nevertheless, they are questions that should be answered before anyone buys into your hysteria.

    Ironically, you pass yourself off as an investigative journalist, but you’re no better than the Fox News hacks shilling for the Koch Bros when faced with questions that run counter to your agenda.

    BTW, your analogy comparing me to the government is pretty lame, even for you. I know it can be difficult coming up with something clever all the time, particularly when your upset, however I think you can do better.

    1. RTC wrote – Jill: Frankly, if you want to get snippy about it, I didn’t ask you or anyone else to do anything. You, on the other hand, are calling for masses to not only take time out of their lives, time off work, but to put their jobs and even careers in jeopardy to stage protests.

      You may want to consider RTC that if protesting places people’s jobs and even careers in jeopardy, it is surely the time to protest before there is nothing left to protest for. Sadly there are way to many people on this site and the world that embrace your position. It is interesting to see such strong intellectual positions unsupported by action. Talk is so so cheap.

  7. Our intelligence threat “measuring stick” is not vey accurate – most Americans have more to fear from traffic accidents, pollution and antibiotics in our food than from the threat of terrorism.

    Continual war means a continual loss of liberties. Why are our leaders trying to exploit our fears by scaring us instead of emboldening us to stand up to fear and not give up any of our liberties?

    The above listed threats are more dangerous in a single year than over a decade of exploiting the fear of terrorism.

  8. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2013/12/chris_kapenga_mark_levin_and_article_v_the_secret_campaign_to_pass_conservative.2.html

    Ok, wake up liberals. If there is to be an Article 5 convention, then we better get our amendment ideas in order. I’ve been reading about how some conservatives are rethinking this Article 5 convention because they are afraid liberals will have some of their own ideas for amendments. Hawaii already has.

    Thanks Darren, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, now I’ve got to give it time to soak in my elderly brain.

  9. I think we’re pretty much screwed. I have no idea how the average American, even in large numbers can overcome the epigovernment. Brilliant thinkers and Constitutional scholars don’t seem to have figured it out either. I’m reading up on what the Constitutional Convention and what it could or couldn’t do. This stuff is above my head honestly.

  10. Annie: I have been watching you and you seem to be using the Socrates method of eliciting the answer out of people to make them think for themselves and answer their own questions, Brilliant. How about you give us a few of your ideas.

  11. Jill, I like your posts, and your ideas. I would also add that we should not downplay voting. As has been pointed out many, many times, both the Rs and Ds serve the same master, those with money, lots of money. So vote, vote for Not (R or D). When Not (R or D) turns out to be bad, add them to the list not to vote for. And yes, I am all for showing up at the capitol steps to protest. I do fear another “savior” with all the right things to say that will turn out to be another sycophant.

    I attended an Obama rally in Idaho in February 2008 because I knew he would be elected, beating any R that was thrown in his path. There were roughly 13,000 people in the arena. I never heard a crowd yell so loud in my life. Attending that rally taught me a lot about group think. What I heard was a charlatan who said lots of things people liked. I had little doubt of his insincerity. I did not think it would take days to relinquish on his promises. I thought he would at least show a token attempt at “change”. And no, he did not get my vote and neither did the R whoever that was.

  12. It would be nice to get some perspective on this report. When did they start tracking government transparency? Were the criteria ever revised or are they the original etc.?” Worst on record for the government” is meaningless unless we have some strong supporting data.

  13. I agree with everything in this article except for the issue with Bin Laden and the Pakistanis.

    As far as I am concerned the Pakistanis gave up the deal when they harbored UBL. I wouldn’t go so far as to deduce a tactical decision in how to deal with UBL in a shootout as being proof of how the administration wanted to the event to conclude, but if there was an order to assasinate UBL raking him down with machine guns would certainly be one way of doing this effectively.

    Moreover, I don’t care if UBL was assasinated. The threat this man carried against civilians in the West, not just the US but others, was so clear and present an assasination could be justified. UBL clearly did not observe international law in what he did and the organization he helped create. This is not the case of a rather run of the mill criminal or terrorist organization foot soldier.

  14. BlueBird:
    Well, I agree with the decision in Citizen’s United v. BoE as well.
    Believe it or not, there are very deep principled reasons for agreeing with that decision. These reasons are concerned with rights retained and active in the present, not an inchoate fear of what be a future consequence of them.

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