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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 16, 2014

 
The Sunshine Years

by digby

“This is the most transparent administration in history,” Obama said during a Google Plus “Fireside” Hangout. "I can document that this is the case,” he continued. “Every visitor that comes into the White House is now part of the public record. Every law we pass and every rule we implement we put online for everyone to see.” February 14, 2014.

As Paul Harvey used to say, and now we have the rest of the story:



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.

The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.

The government's own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that half way through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.

In category after category - except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees - the government's efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

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.

I suppose there are a couple of people out there who thought that when candidate Obama promised to have a transparent administration he just meant that he would put the rules he implemented online. But I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that most of his voters thought he was promising to reverse the paranoid secrecy and usurpation of the constitution during the Bush years by being accountable to the people. I think they were especially concerned about the tendency to cite national security as a reason to deny citizens access to information and due process.

That was a wrong assumption. But hey, we do have the White House visitor logs to pore over now, so that's something.

Read on ...

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