Last week, a veteran New York Times reporter dubbed the Obama administration the “most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered” in a preview of Leonard Downie’s special report on the White House’s supposed commitment to transparency for the Committee to Protect Journalists. That full report was released on Thursday, and let’s just say that things did not get much more flattering for the Obama administration:
In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records. An “Insider Threat Program” being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues.
Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations. Still more criminal investigations into leaks are under way. Reporters’ phone logs and e-mails were secretly subpoenaed and seized by the Justice Department in two of the investigations, and a Fox News reporter was accused in an affidavit for one of those subpoenas of being “an aider, abettor and/or conspirator” of an indicted leak defendant, exposing him to possible prosecution for doing his job as a journalist. In another leak case, a New York Times reporter has been ordered to testify against a defendant or go to jail.
And that’s just the introduction.
The White House, apparently, is feeling a little defensive about the scathing report, via Politico:
“From the day he took office, the President committed his Administration to work towards unprecedented openness in government,” Eric Schultz, a White House spokesperson, told POLITICO in a statement. …
“As part of the President’s unparalleled commitment to reforming Washington, this Administration is the first ever to release White House visitor records,” Schultz said. “Over the past four years, Federal agencies have gone to great efforts to make government more transparent and more accessible than ever, to provide people with information that they can use in their daily lives. Just this past year, the government processed more [Freedom of Information Act] requests, decreased the backlog, improved average processing times, and disclosed more information proactively.”
“But these are more than just statistics,” Schultz continued. “They represent the efforts of agencies across the government to meet the President’s commitment to openness. While creating a more open government requires sustained effort, our continued efforts seek to promote accountability, provide people with useful information and harness the dispersed knowledge of the American people.”
Do they honestly think that if they just keep throwing around words like “unprecedented” and “unparalleled” in discussing their feelings about transparency, that it will somehow magically make it true — or do they just not care? Because the only thing “unprecedented” about this administration in regards to transparency are their aggressive efforts to clamp down on it.