The 'Most Transparent Administration In History' Sets New Record In Denying Freedom Of Information Requests

from the no-accountability dept

On the day of his inauguration in 2009, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would be “the most open and transparent in history.” It did not take long for that promise to be tossed aside, and it has been clear for quite a while that this administration is perhaps the most secretive in history. A new analysis by the AP of how the administration responds to FOIA requests confirms that it is becoming even more secretive each year:

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.

Basically, the administration is doing everything possible to keep information secret. Despite President Obama’s memo to the federal government upon taking office on the importance of openness in responding to FOIA requests, the government has done exactly the opposite. His memo, you may recall, stated:

The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

Compare that to the reality:

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 Defense Department, including the NSA, and the CIA accounted for nearly all those. The Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency cited national security six times, the Environmental Protection Agency did twice and the National Park Service once.

And five years after Obama directed agencies to less frequently invoke a “deliberative process” exception to withhold materials describing decision-making behind the scenes, the government did it anyway, a record 81,752 times.

Yes. It appears that “the most transparent administration in history” has never been all that transparent, and it’s only getting worse.

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Comments on “The 'Most Transparent Administration In History' Sets New Record In Denying Freedom Of Information Requests”

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35 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

It's a matter of differing definitions

To the public, transparency means an open government, one where the people are able to see, understand, and ultimately guide what the government is doing via their voices and votes.

Under this definition the government fails abysmally.

To the government on the other hand, transparency means no pretending. If they’re going to consider the citizens as enemies to the state, treat them as criminals, trash their rights, and do everything they can to destroy as much of what made the country great and respected by other nations in the past, well, they at least will be honest about it, with minimal pretending and only a handful of lies to try and cover their real motives up.

Under this definition the government succeeds with flying colors, and is indeed ‘the most open and transparent in history’.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: It's a matter of differing definitions

I never saw as many petitions and conversations with government as we are seeing now. Lots of data is more easily accessible.

Obama is not expected to force bureaucrats to disclose info in the record number of FOIA requests. BTW, I have seen examples cited to potentially protect Republicans. Each agency uses their own judgment.

And “leaks” are not public information even if they help drive the Press.

AzureSky (profile) says:

people thought oBomBa was serious when he said he was pro whistle blower and pro transparency?

oBomBa was and is a politician, they lie, they tell people what they think we want to hear, in order to get elected.

I still stand by oBomBa/biden being better then McCain/Palin….palin is to stupid to live….bidens just a corporate shill….

either way, expecting a Politician to risk the public finding out bad things about them…..very amusing

scotts13 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Just a quick note, your name calling of the president makes you look stupid and sound like a child, show some self respect and stop name calling the most powerful man in the world and maybe people will spend the time reading your comment instead of reporting it into oblivion.”

You win. You’re MUCH funnier than I am.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Orwell would be saying..... "ha, ha, told ya so"

LOLWOT?

MFW I see “Airstrip One” on the map.
MFW “The Ministry of Truth” existed in 1948

I think you are taking something from my comment that was not there. If it was… it would still be legit. 1984 was not “what Orwell saw going on in 1948 (post-war Europe)”. 1984 is a science/political fiction…. operative word being fiction.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Orwell would be saying..... "ha, ha, told ya so"

Rich is correct — Orwell’s book was a commentary on what was happening in his time, not a prediction of what would come. His commentary came in the form of fiction and exaggeration because that is often the only way to speak about an underlying truth.

Perhaps what he wouldn’t have expected is that his exaggerations would cease looking so like exaggerations over time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Rich is ......

Lol_Nope.avi

“April 4th, 1984.
He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him. To begin with he did not know with any certainty that this was 1984. It must be round about that date, since he was fairly sure that his age was thirty-nine, and he believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945; but it was never possible nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two.”

Part 1, Chapter 1, Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

Originally, Orwell titled the book The Last Man in Europe, but his publisher, Fredric Warburg, suggested the change. (Crick, Bernard. “Introduction,” to George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984)).

As for “not meant” for being a prediction of the future… Of course it is not.

((Stalinist totalitarianism + consumer capitalism) of Orwell’s era) + Time = his book titled 1984

1984 is about a dystopian future.

Anonymous Coward says:

WHY!?!?!

Why do the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service even HAVE the ability to cite “National Security” to deny a FOIA request?

Golly gee… It’s like “National Security” is the be-all end-all answer for anything no one in government wants to answer or be held accountable for. Go figure…

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Did anyone read the memo?

“This memorandum does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.”

So this was a joke on the departments. It’s like telling someone they have to strip for the beach, and after their fear and embarrassment has peaked, shouting, “Only kidding!”

Or maybe the joke was on us?

GEMont (profile) says:

All the sheep a company can fleece

“Yes. It appears that “the most transparent administration in history” has never been all that transparent, and it’s only getting worse.”

And pray tell, when ever has any business considered that telling its secrets to the public was a good policy??

The US Fed is a Fascist Organization, and thus, is a business, plain and simple. It has no intention of disclosing its business secrets to anyone, let alone the people it is fleecing.

If your waiting for the next administration to be any better, you’re going to be extremely disappointed. Once fascism takes over the governing of a nation, there is no direction left beyond straight down hill. The A Team will simply be replaced by the B Team and SNAFU will continue. A decade later the teams will switch again, and again SNAFU.

If shit starts to unravel, all that is ever necessary is to find a willing enemy with similar population problems and start up a war in his or some poor third-world country.

Fascism will eventually abandon the USA, once it has stolen everything of value and left its economy and public in ruins, but until then, it will continue to pretend to be a government and rob you all blind, with your full consent.

To be rid of such a blight, it is always necessary to excise the entire organism in one motion, because, like cancer, it can metastasize elsewhere, if even a small bit is overlooked.

Of course, before any such action can be under-taken, the public must first become aware that the problem exists.

Can’t see that happening in America – The Complacent Consumer Country.

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