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.