As Taegan Goddard said, you just can’t make this stuff up. First, the White House announced that Barack Obama would receive an award for transparency to celebrate Sunshine Week, a way to highlight the need for openness in government. McClatchy couldn’t figure out what the award was, or which organization exactly was presenting it, mainly because the White House didn’t put the information in its announcement. McClatchy had to ask:
The White House, responding to a request for more information, said it’s an award from organizers of the Freedom of Information Day Conference and that five transparency advocates will present it: Gary Bass, Founder and Executive Director of OMB Watch; Tom Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at the George Washington University; Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight; Lucy Dalglish, the Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Patrice McDermott, Director of Open The Government.
But as Andrew Malcolm points out, the award ceremony had the unique condition that the press couldn’t ask questions afterward — just like everything else on the schedule for Obama on the day he was to receive his award for openness:
President Obama was scheduled to receive an award in the afternoon in the middle of Sunshine Week from a coalition of good government groups for his much-promised policy of government transparency. Strangely, this award for government openness was to include only photographers. So, no meddlesome media questions.
Worse, the transparency award was scheduled for a day when every other presidential activity was closed to the media and public. Not the best context and an obvious invitation to “wait-one-minute-stories” like this.
Andrew also sends readers to this AP report on the openness of President Obama’s administration:
People requested information 544,360 times last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act from the 35 largest agencies, up nearly 41,000 more than the previous year, according to an analysis by the Associated Press of new federal data. But the government responded to nearly 12,400 fewer requests. …
The Obama administration censored 194 pages of internal e-mails about its Open Government Directive that the AP requested more than one year ago.
The December 2009 directive requires every agency to take immediate, specific steps to open their operations up to the public. But the White House Office of Management and Budget blacked-out entire pages of some e-mails between federal employees discussing how to apply the new openness rules, and it blacked-out one e-mail discussing how to respond to AP’s request for information about the transparency directive.
By late yesterday, Taegan informed us, the award ceremony was canceled:
However, reporters were told the event was postponed “due to changes to the President’s schedule.”
And the very best part?
No other reason was given.
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