President Obama continues morphing into President Bush. If you need informal proof, just watch Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, and you’ll see that she is becoming more openly critical of a president for whom she repeatedly made excuses earlier in his administration. Or be a fly on the wall at my next family get-together to hear how the very same relatives who touted Obama as a liberal and antidote to Bush are now criticizing him. But if you want the opinion of actual organizations, read Sharon Theimer’s article for the Associated Press on the Obama administration’s track record on transparency.
It’s hardly the image of transparency the Obama administration wants to project: A workshop on government openness is closed to the public.
The event Monday for federal employees is a fitting symbol of President Barack Obama’s uneven record so far on the Freedom of Information Act, a big part of keeping his campaign promise to make his administration the most transparent ever. As Obama’s first year in office ends, the government’s actions when the public and press seek information are not yet matching up with the president’s words.
People who routinely request government records said they don’t see much progress on Obama’s transparency pledge.
“It’s either smoke and mirrors or it was done for the media,” said Jeff Stachewicz, founder of Washington-based FOIA Group Inc., which files hundreds of requests every month across the government on behalf of companies, law firms and news organizations. “This administration, when it wants something done, there are no excuses. You just don’t see a big movement toward transparency.”
The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, said it filed 45 requests for records since Obama became president, and that agencies such as NASA and the Energy Department have been mostly cooperative in the spirit of Obama’s promises. But the FBI and Justice Department? Not so much, said Nate Cardozo, working for the foundation on a project to expose new government surveillance technologies.
The FBI resisted turning over copies of reports to a White House intelligence oversight board about possible bureau legal violations. The FBI said it’s so far behind reviewing other, unrelated requests that it can’t turn over the reports until May 2014.
Read the whole story on The News Tribune, as it also discusses other governmental agencies and transparency failures.
Since his candidacy, I have raised concerns on Chronicles of Dissent about Obama’s commitment to privacy and civil liberties issues. I would love for him to prove my concerns unfounded. Sadly, he just keeps proving that my skepticism and concerns were justified.