Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Secrecy from the "Most Open and Transparent WH in history"

Corona of the Sun During a Solar Eclipse 1900

On the
White House website the Obama administration makes the following claim:

Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government.

But transparency is not what we are getting from the Obama administration. In fact, we are getting just the opposite. Just this week alone we found out that the administration argued that the WH visitors logs should be kept secret just like the Bush administration argued. We also found out that the Obama administration's Department of Homeland Security is using the old standby excuse of national security to prevent government officials from telling the public the location of coal ash dumps.

There are 44 sites deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency to be high hazard, but Boxer said she isn't allowed to talk about them other than to senators in the states affected.

"There is a huge muzzle on me and my staff," she said."Homeland Security and the Army Corps [of Engineers] have decided in the interests of national security they can't make these sites known," she said.

and then yesterday they did this:

A federal judge yesterday sharply questioned an assertion by the Obama administration that former Vice President Richard B. Cheney's statements to a special prosecutor about the Valerie Plame case must be kept secret, partly so they do not become fodder for Cheney's political enemies or late-night commentary on "The Daily Show."

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan expressed surprise during a hearing here that the Justice Department, in asserting that Cheney's voluntary statements to U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald were exempt from disclosure, relied on legal claims put forward last October by a Bush administration political appointee, Stephen Bradbury. The department asserted then that the disclosure would make presidents and vice presidents reluctant to cooperate voluntarily with future criminal investigations.

But career civil division lawyer Jeffrey M. Smith, responding to Sullivan's questions, said Bradbury's arguments against the disclosure were supported by the department's current leadership. He told the judge that if Cheney's remarks were published, then a future vice president asked to provide candid information during a criminal probe might refuse to do so out of concern "that it's going to get on 'The Daily Show' " or somehow be used as a political weapon

Sadly, the Obama administration has consistently been more secretive than transparent. Glenn Greenwald did an excellent blog post the other day, Here is secrecy creep in action, where he documented the long string of Obama administration decisions where they chose secrecy over transparency. It's a MUST READ.

Today the Obama administration is scheduled to release the 2004 CIA Inspector General Report about interrogation techniques (torture). However, it was reported in the Washington Post on Wednesday that some in the CIA were pressing the administration to keep most of this report classified. Once again President Obama has an opportunity to prove to the American people that his administration is truly interested in government transparency. Will the report be heavily redacted as the CIA wants or will the Obama administration let sunlight help disinfect this sorry chapter in our history? Stay tuned.

Upate: Greg Sargent writes that the 2004 CIA Inspector General Report will not be released today. Looks like we will have to wait until next Friday for release of this report - maybe.

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