Journalists Attack Obama Administration For Being Ridiculously Secretive And Vindictive

from the most-transparent-administration-in-history dept

Earlier this year, then NY Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson called out the Obama administration for being the most secretive in history, despite the claims of Obama himself that his would be "the most transparent administration in history." Not only has this administration used the Espionage Act to go after whistleblowers more times than every other administration in history combined, it's currently fighting a legal battle to put NYT journalist Jim Risen in jail for refusing to reveal a source. It's also denied more FOIA requests than any other administration in history. The White House has ridiculously tried to defend its "most transparent in history" claims by pointing to the fact that unlike previous administrations, this one releases visitor logs. Whoop. De. Doo.

At a big journalism confab in Chicago, apparently anger about the administration's unprecedented level of secrecy boiled over as journalists vehemently criticized the lengths to which this administration will go to block journalists and to create significant chilling effects.
"The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations — from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events," Brian Carovillano, AP managing editor for U.S. news, said during a panel discussion.
Reporters noted that sources are now afraid to talk to them, given the crackdown on leaks -- though, again, it only happens on leaks the administration doesn't like. When the leaks make the White House look good, no investigations, hounding or prosecutions happen. However, if you leak something the administration doesn't like -- such as blowing the whistle on corrupt government practices, the administration has an official policy that you are "aiding the enemy."

And while some might claim (incorrectly, usually) that there's a legitimate argument there when it comes to leaks involving national security, the crackdown goes way beyond that:
The AP's Washington chief of bureau, Sally Buzbee, said the Obama administration's efforts to control information extend even to agencies not directly involved in intelligence gathering. Some sources, she said, have reportedly been warned they could be fired for even talking to a reporter.

"Day-to-day intimidation of sources is also extremely chilling," she said.

Buzbee said she's frequently asked if the Obama administration, when it comes to transparency, is worse than the administration of President George W. Bush.

"Bush was not fantastic," she said. She added, "The (Obama) administration is significantly worse than previous administrations."
We tend to agree that the following statement is a ridiculous one in most situations, but since government officials seem to use it all the time, it seems worth asking: if they've done nothing wrong, what do they have to hide?

Reader Comments

The First Word

Re: I really don't see an issue with the secrecy

We don't need to know everything, if we do, the enemy does. Think about that for a while...

No, we don't need to know details. What you're talking about is called Operational Security (OPSEC). OPSEC relates to very specific things.

Here's an example. If I post on Facebook that I'm getting deployed to Afghanistan, that's not a violation of OPSEC. There are plenty of unclassified channels where an enemy could learn that information. Now, if I said I'm deploying on X date on Y flight with Z number of people, that's where the problem comes in.

The vast majority of classified information involves specifics of known information. For example, it's not classified that we have electronic warfare devices that are used to remotely explode IEDs using frequency jamming. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The exact effective radius of devices currently in use on military vehicles, however, is classified.

The issue people have with transparency is that we're hiding general information, not because knowledge of it would allow the enemy to counteract it, but because if people knew about it they would not approve of it. That is an illegal reason to classify government information. So when we find out that the government is doing it on a massive scale, and actively trying to surpress that information, not because it would aid the enemy, but because the American people would not approve, we're a little upset.

I don't need to know the effective range of our counter-IED vehicles, and I don't need to know the 10 digit grid of our nuclear submarines, and I don't need to know the names of our operatives in Iran. I do need to know when my government is torturing people, spying on citizens not suspected of any crime, and in general abusing its power.

The fact is that terrorists already assumed we had the capability to track their communications. Our military does this regularly; it's why we use callsigns on encrypted radio communications. We don't know if the enemy has broken our encryption, but if they have, we're not going to make it easy for them to find out more. Extremist organizations would have to be insane to operate under the assumption that their electronic communications were perfectly safe.

So who's really upset about the whole thing? The American population. Did this hurt the U.S. reputation? Certainly. But that's because it's bad, and because we shouldn't have been doing it, which is not a reason to classify information.

There isn't a problem with secrecy. There's a problem with illegal and immoral behavior being allowed because we're too afraid of the terrorist threat to challenge our own government.
—JP Jones

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 4:12pm

    If the Media....

    really did not like it they would spend time trashing the white house.

    This is just a few Journalists with enough integrity to at least get off Obama's nob long enough to wipe their faces and figure out all they have been doing is slobbering Obama's nob.

    I tend to not feel sorry for them. When you hear a politician talk themselves up like Obama, then you can rest assured the opposite is the truth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FM Hilton, 24 Sep 2014 @ 4:12pm

    We expected better?

    They have plenty to hide. Start with the NSA and work your way through the maze that is Washington.
    Read a story not too long ago that states that there are huge numbers of people leaving Homeland Security because the morale is just plain shit, and nobody wants to work there any more.
    Top-level turnover: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/top-level-turnover-makes-it-harder-for-dhs-to-stay-on-top-of- evolving-threats/2014/09/21/ca7919a6-39d7-11e4-9c9f-ebb47272e40e_story.html?hpid=z1

    So it's affecting all of this administration..and it started with the Bush administration. So very long ago.

    And if they're unhappy, there's something very wrong in the system. Security people are usually the last to bail out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 4:24pm

      Re: We expected better?

      Oh boo hoo, the jackbooted thugs of the DHS are leaving!!! I hope it forces them to shutter the agency

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 5:28pm

        Re: Re: We expected better?

        Actually, when all the "good people" leave an organization, it usually becomes overrun by the worst-of-the-worst.

        For most for-profit corporations, this usually results in losses in customers and profits. For a government-run organization, this usually means they go rogue, and this is where we're at.

        How do you stop an organization that makes its own rules and answers to nobody?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 5:29pm

        Re: Re: We expected better?

        No the jackbooted thugs are the ones left. The ones with a moral compass decided they didn't want to be around for the trials after the fact.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 6:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: We expected better?

          It's true that many "good people" have left. But fortunately for all of us, "jackbooted thugs" are *not* the only ones left. There are still many people with intact moral compasses in government, the military, and the law enforcement. And although it certainly seems true that there are an increasing number of lawless, power hungry, greed driven thugs currently calling the shots, it is only a matter of time before they can no longer deny with any efficacy the immorality of their actions and will face the consequences. To them I say, continue abusing your power, keep breaking just and moral law with your secret lawless laws, keep denying your actions only to be proven again to be liars, keep up your fear mongering and perpetual war to justify your budgets and ever increasing power at the cost of everyone else's money and freedoms - keep it up and see what you get.

          They are currently being exposed for what they are and we're just getting started. We're all in this for the long haul and it's going to be a long/tough fight. But it's a fight they will lose in the end.

          So let them go after the press, let them go after whistle blowers. The more they tighten their grip, the more they oppress, the more they show themselves for who they truly are, the more all that info they don't want anyone to see is going to flow - and like a tidal wave it will wash their stain off our democracy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2014 @ 10:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: We expected better?

            If anything was going to happen Americans would have revolted years ago. Apathy and complacency rules them now

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2014 @ 2:01am

      Re: We expected better?

      "it started with the Bush administration."

      C'mon. There hasn't been a real President/democracy in the US since JFK.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 24 Sep 2014 @ 4:47pm

    Obama is a lying weasel. He lied to get elected, he lied to get re-elected and he lies every time he opens his mouth. Why does anyone expect anything any different?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PW097, 24 Sep 2014 @ 4:56pm

    I really don't see an issue with the secrecy

    I really don't see an issue with the secrecy.

    Then again I was born into an era where people still said, "loose lips sink ships".

    We don't need to know everything, if we do, the enemy does. Think about that for a while...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 5:11pm

      Re: I really don't see an issue with the secrecy

      Congratulations then, you are exactly the kind of person that the government loves: someone who believes that if the government says something is classified, that's good enough and there's no need to question them on it.

      The government lies, they've been caught out on it numerous times since Snowden stepped up, so they no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt when they say 'That's classified, and releasing it would be a threat to national security', since more often than not 'national security' has been nothing more than 'Our ability to do anything we feel like in the name of 'National Security'.

      The NSA was and is conducting mass spying on US citizens, the only 'enemy' possibly helped out by that being exposed is the public, as they now know that their own government is spying on them and can take steps to compensate for that with increased security.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JP Jones (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 7:01pm

      Re: I really don't see an issue with the secrecy

      We don't need to know everything, if we do, the enemy does. Think about that for a while...

      No, we don't need to know details. What you're talking about is called Operational Security (OPSEC). OPSEC relates to very specific things.

      Here's an example. If I post on Facebook that I'm getting deployed to Afghanistan, that's not a violation of OPSEC. There are plenty of unclassified channels where an enemy could learn that information. Now, if I said I'm deploying on X date on Y flight with Z number of people, that's where the problem comes in.

      The vast majority of classified information involves specifics of known information. For example, it's not classified that we have electronic warfare devices that are used to remotely explode IEDs using frequency jamming. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The exact effective radius of devices currently in use on military vehicles, however, is classified.

      The issue people have with transparency is that we're hiding general information, not because knowledge of it would allow the enemy to counteract it, but because if people knew about it they would not approve of it. That is an illegal reason to classify government information. So when we find out that the government is doing it on a massive scale, and actively trying to surpress that information, not because it would aid the enemy, but because the American people would not approve, we're a little upset.

      I don't need to know the effective range of our counter-IED vehicles, and I don't need to know the 10 digit grid of our nuclear submarines, and I don't need to know the names of our operatives in Iran. I do need to know when my government is torturing people, spying on citizens not suspected of any crime, and in general abusing its power.

      The fact is that terrorists already assumed we had the capability to track their communications. Our military does this regularly; it's why we use callsigns on encrypted radio communications. We don't know if the enemy has broken our encryption, but if they have, we're not going to make it easy for them to find out more. Extremist organizations would have to be insane to operate under the assumption that their electronic communications were perfectly safe.

      So who's really upset about the whole thing? The American population. Did this hurt the U.S. reputation? Certainly. But that's because it's bad, and because we shouldn't have been doing it, which is not a reason to classify information.

      There isn't a problem with secrecy. There's a problem with illegal and immoral behavior being allowed because we're too afraid of the terrorist threat to challenge our own government.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 5:03pm

    Most...transparent...administration...in...history?

    That was a good one you pulled one us, Obama. Twice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 5:13pm

      Re:

      To be fair, that is one of the few honest claims he's made.

      The current administration is 'The most transparent(ly contemptuous of the laws and rights of the people) administration in recent US history'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 5:14pm

    Visitor logs

    Except they don't really release the visitor logs. Their policy says that they're allowed to remove entries at their discretion for arbitrary reasons, and they only release a sanitized version.

    I think I actually learned about that little caveat on Techdirt, way back when the policy was first announced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Sep 2014 @ 6:51pm

    We will be rid of the garbage soon

    What a truly criminal president. Everything he has done has been to the detriment of the citizens of this country.

    I would vote for someone who walks in and says they are going to kill puppies and hang senior citizens before I would ever vote for someone who would make the promises he made. What a liar, what a scam artist, what a piece of crap our president is.

    Is it wrong to want to donate to the defense fund of anyone who tries to make it to the white house?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 7:28pm

    Perhaps they need reminders that they are supposed to be working for the people. That when you start/continue programs that SPY on the people who idiotically put you into power you need to be a little more forthcoming and stop sputtering but but but terrorism to deflect everything.

    If you threaten to fire people for merely talking to a reporter, one has to wonder why.
    You have such little faith in the oaths you make them take?
    You are terrified that they might point out the Constitution is being violated yet again?

    Maybe what they need to do is look at what they have done without the lenses sold to them by those who stand to benefit from extraordinary budgets being dumped into chasing pipedream that do nothing for security but sure as hell erode freedom.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 8:37pm

    This isnt the first time..

    It took 30 years to find out 1/2 the things that happened in Korea and vietnam..
    WHo started this mess?? Cant say BUSH did.. It started before him, but HE added to it.
    ASK the congress and representatives, HOW easy it is to make something SECRET.. they just ASK..thats why you wont find Tons of information about some of our laws..

    90% of those in Wash. DC, need to be FIRED.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 25 Sep 2014 @ 12:40am

      Re: This isnt the first time..

      how many of you know/knew that Bin laden, had been asking for assistance BEFORE he bombed anything..
      WHo knows when he STARTED bombing things?
      WHO knows when we TRAINED HIM?? yes we did..
      There are TONS of things this nation does not tell us, and it has gotten WORSE over the years.

      WE are as bad as Britain, WAS..until we told them to QUIT IT..

      And 1 more point..For all the democracies the USA has created and HELD..as well as those the USA had nothing to DO WITH..how many of them have only 2 parties with POWER..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 25 Sep 2014 @ 5:17am

        Re: Re: This isnt the first time..

        how many of them have only 2 parties with POWER..

        This is actually an absurd by itself. Sure other countries with more parties have seen the same pseudo-polarization the US has (seriously, if we talk about right/left there are two far-right winged parties in the US competing to see who will give more of the US to the corporations) but at least there is space for smaller parties to try and raise awareness.

        Last time the politicians couldn't agree on the budget the public services went boom... If there are more parties agreements have to be reached to take such absurd step.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 25 Sep 2014 @ 5:13am

      Re: This isnt the first time..

      90% of those in Wash. DC, need to be FIRED.

      As in thrown into a raging fire? I'm all for it!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2014 @ 5:26pm

      Re: This isnt the first time..

      "90% of those in Wash. DC, need to be FIRED."

      Typo. That should "FRIED"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2014 @ 3:19am

    although i agree with what is said here, it seems to me to be other countries as well. for whatever reason(s), the aim seems to be to ensure that the government is able to track every single one of their persons, along with their letters, texts, calls and speech, as well as every movement/journey they make. this is being done for a reason and when that reason reveals itself (maybe have every right removed and be treated like slaves, just so the corporate planet, which the Earth is fast transforming into, can make money for a very elite few), we are definitely not going to like it! Fascism was defeated years ago. it doesn't mean it is dead!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Sep 2014 @ 5:04am

    We tend to agree that the following statement is a ridiculous one in most situations, but since government officials seem to use it all the time, it seems worth asking: if they've done nothing wrong, what do they have to hide?

    It's not ridiculous when it concerns the Government. They should be displaying most things in the open and it is obvious by now that usually they will try to hide stuff when they are wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2014 @ 6:14am

    Remove the ability to receive money in DC with exception of a salary ,remove money as having speech, and you remove those that are looking to dissect our laws for financial reasons, remove the idea that our elected officials are businessmen and our country is a business and you bring back the rights of the people and treat them less like a walmart employee.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2014 @ 7:24am

    Evil festers in dark places.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2014 @ 8:30am

    World News Picking Fights

    A lot of agencies have been itching for fights and being like the fat dog on the porch provoking the younger dogs to get out and pick some fights.. Now that the US is intent on killing every damn isil son of destruction, some of these angencies still aren't satisfied and instead are whining and complaining about the legality and policy etc.. That frosts me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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