NOVEMBER 06, 2013
It may seem like a cheap prank but the Obama administration, which has proven to be among the most secretive, has actually issued its second “Open Government National Action Plan” that promises to build on (delusional) “past successes.”
Even the president’s many friends and supporters in the mainstream media have conceded that government secrecy has actually increased significantly since he moved into the White House, despite promises of an “unprecedented level of openness in government.” Instead, federal agencies have found creative excuses to keep an alarming number of public records secret, according to an analysis conducted several years ago by a national news organization.
The problem has only gotten worse over the years, according to a number of reports and probes. Just a few months ago a national news conglomerate reported that the administration even uses covert government accounts to keep electronic mail from becoming public. When the news outlet tried accessing records of the illegal secret accounts, one federal agency, the Department of Labor (DOL) tried collecting north of $1 million for its list of email addresses by claiming it had to pay 50 people to work three weeks retrieving the records.
Judicial Watch encounters these sorts of obstacles regularly in its never-ending work exposing government corruption, which goes hand in hand with secrecy and often forces litigation. The Obama administration has kept JW quite busy and in court often. How bad is the problem? A few years ago JW President Tom Fitton told Congress how, under Obama, government agencies have actually created additional hurdles and stonewalled even the most basic Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. “The Bush administration was tough and tricky, but the Obama administration is tougher and trickier,” Fitton told lawmakers. Fitton testified before the House and Senate during “Sunshine Week,” a national initiative by the news media, nonprofits and other organizations to promote government transparency.
The administration’s new action plan is a sequel to a 2011 initiative that it claims set “26 commitments” that have already “increased public integrity, enhanced public access to information, improved management of public resources and given the public a more active voice in the U.S. Government’s policymaking process.” The new model will ambitiously modernize the administration of FOIA and significantly expand open data initiatives across the federal government to increase transparency.
This is laughable considering the administration’s history of secrecy without accountability. Just a few weeks ago Judicial Watch reported on the failures of an agency created by Congress to promote government transparency. Known as the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), it’s supposed to facilitate the treacherous process of obtaining public records by serving as an objective ombudsman that forces federal agencies to comply with FOIA disputes. Though Congress has given it $1 million, it’s failed miserably to fulfill this mission, proving the Obama administration is anything but transparent.
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