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Silent Nation

“A speechless world looks on
It just has to be!
Silent nation
In a silent nation
We must change what has been done
It’s a travesty
Silent nation

by Asia (Payne/Downes)

Early on in his Administration, President Obama declared that his Presidency would mark a new era of government accountability. His White House would be different from the previous Bush Presidency.

“The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known…

Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency” – President Obama

Noble sentiments for sure but what good is that if the person making the statement doesn’t follow through on it or, worse yet, has no intention to follow through on it?

According to a new study conducted by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, it was found that less than one-third of 90 federal agencies who process FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests have made any major changes to their procedures since President Obama took office.

However, since this is Sunshine Week (a good thing, in my opinion), Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, celebrated by sending yet another memo to the FOIA agencies. [sarcasm]I’m totally sure they’re going to repent and mend their ways now.[/sarcasm]

Another one of the promises that Obama made was that legislation would be posted online for at least three days before he would sign it into law. That promise hasn’t been kept. Between that and the fact that this Congress has been passing behemoth-sized bills makes it sort of difficult to implement transparency in this area.

Much has also been made of the fact that, during his Presidential campaign, Obama promised that the healthcare deliberations would be broadcast on CSPAN. Obviously, that hasn’t happened, either, and the meetings in relation to the current healthcare reform legislation have largely been held behind closed doors.

Obama also promised transparency in regards to the stimulus bill passed by Congress last year. Yet we still don’t know how those funds are being used and why a large percentage of the bailout has not even been released yet, regardless of the fact that much was made that the money would heavily fund “shovel-ready” projects. If that’s the case, why is the money still stuffed into the mattress?

Even some of the folks on the left are starting to note, with disappointment, that the Obama Administration is obviously not keeping their promises. The Huffington Post reports that federal agencies are not more transparent under this President. They also note that, under Obama, agencies cited an exemption for “deliberative process” 70,779 times, up from 47,395 times in Bush’s final budget year, an increase of over 33%. Also, Obama’s numbers here only reflect nine months in office. You won’t find me citing the Huffington Post very often but their article on this issue was very well done in this case. Also, an Associated Press examination of the 17 major agencies found a denial in 466,872 instances, or a 50% increase from Bush’s last fiscal year.

In all honesty, government does sometimes have good reason to keep certain information private. As conservative blogger Ed Morrissey notes on his blog, Hot Air

Critics would do well to remember that government often has good reason to keep sensitive information out of the public domain.  After all, we’re fighting a war in Afghanistan as well as battling global terrorist networks.  Furthermore, the executive branch has a right to solicit advice on policy, and it can’t get good, honest advice if the people being asked believe that their consultations will get plastered all over the New York Times.  While the government tends to default too often to secrecy no matter which party occupies the White House, those issues are valid still.

Well noted and Morrissey is correct. However, the drastic increase in FOIA request denials seems to be far outpacing the necessity for keeping some information under wraps.

Please read my other posts on this topic: No Transparency About Transparency, The Rush-It Through Approach, Transparency and Accountability ,”Transparency and Accountability” Update


One Response

  1. […] Of course, we’re also talking about a White House that came into this Administration amidst claims that openness would be the new norm instead of what they claimed happened in the previous administration. In fact, just the opposite has occurred since Obama took the country’s reins. His leadership has seen a marked increase in secrecy, a fact that has not even escaped the notice of a liberal organization like The Huffington Post. You can read more on this issue in my blog post titled “Silent Nation“. […]

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