We have previously discussed the criticism of reporters, newspapers like the New York Times, and international groups that President Obama has run one of the most hostile Administrations in history to press freedom and public openness. Now that Democratic stalwart, the Washington Post, has joined in the chorus of critics, detailing the secretive, almost Nixonian culture of the Obama Administration in a new article.
The article by Paul Farhi, details the story of how the Obama Administration actively blocked the efforts of Palm Beach Post reporter Stacey Singer in her effort to confirm reports of a tuberculosis outbreak in the Jacksonville area.
The Post notes
“Singer’s experience is shared by virtually every journalist on the government beat, from the White House on down. They can recite tales with similar outlines: An agency spokesman — frequently a political appointee — rejects the reporter’s request for interviews, offers partial or nonresponsive replies, or delays responding at all until after the journalist’s deadline has passed.
Interview requests that are granted are closely monitored, reporters say, with a press “minder” sitting in. Some agencies require reporters to pose their questions by e-mail, a tactic that enables officials to carefully craft and vet their replies.
Tensions between reporters and public information officers — “hacks and flacks” in the vernacular — aren’t new, of course. Reporters have always wanted more information than government officials have been willing or able to give.
But journalists say the lid has grown tighter under the Obama administration, whose chief executive promised in 2009 to bring “an unprecedented level of openness” to the federal government.”
What is fascinating is that despite a record of investigating reporters, tapping their phones, and threatening them with jail (as well as a scorched Earth campaign against whistleblowers), many reporters remain largely muted in their criticism and privately support the Administration. It is a remarkable disconnect in the media. That has not changed even after last summer when 38 organizations representing journalists and press-freedom advocates accused the Administration of “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies” and referred to the Obama Administration’s restrictions on media as “a form of censorship — an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear.”
This month, the nonprofit Center for Effective Government gave eight of the 15 agencies a “D” for their compliance (or lack of compliance) with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The highest performing agency was the Department of Agriculture with a mediocre “B.” Two agencies received “F” grades: The Department of State and Department of Health and Human Services. The “D” group included two D minus grades for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Defense. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was among the D grades. What is really frightening is that having two failures and eight near failures with Ds was a slight improvement for the Administration. With only two years left, the Obama Administration has racked up one of the most closed and secretive records of any modern presidency.
Just for the purposes of historical record, President Obama ran on creating the most transparent Administration in history and then made this pledge in 2009 specifically referring to FOIA to the American people: