Remember when the Obama administration promised they would be the most transparent in the history of the United States? Of course you do, they said it again this week. In fact, upon releasing an analysis of their own compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, Josh Earnest had the nerve to say, “We actually do have a lot to brag about. And frankly, it sets a standard that future administrations will have to live up to.”
Well, you can say that again. According to an independent analysis by the Associated Press, this White House has set a record for denying access to files and documents. Any future administrations will have to risk jail time if they want to live up to this White House’s “standards.”
According to the U.S. government’s own figures, the Obama administration received 714,231 information requests in 2014. They responded to 647,142 of these requests. Unfortunately, they provided either censored records or denied these requests a full 39 percent of the time. In the case of another 215,000 requests, the administration insisted that it could not find the records in question, that the requester refused to pay for copies, or that they determined that the request was improper in some way.
Keep in mind that in a full third of cases, the White House admitted that it was wrong when challenged on their decision to censor or withhold information. That’s the highest rate of reversal in five years. In other words, this White House is happy to answer with a default “no” and leave it up to the requester to force the issue. That’s not the way transparent government works. We shouldn’t have to push this administration to the legal limits to get a peek behind the curtain.
Earnest, meanwhile, praised agencies for releasing information before it was requested. He proudly noted more than 125,000 data sets various government agencies had posted up on data.gov. Wow, thanks guys. It really speaks to this administration’s commitment to open government that you release data no one asked for. I’m sure if any of that data happens to portray you in an unfavorable light, it is somehow lost before it can find its way onto the website.
One can only imagine the kind of things we’ll see once this president is out of power. Hopefully, we elect someone with a desire to expose his predecessor. What might be hidden back there behind the red tape? Is there anything that hasn’t been shredded? Anything that might put Obama in line for a presidential pardon? Hmm, wishful thinking perhaps.
There must be something, though. Obama continues to insist that we’re headed in the right direction despite all the evidence to the contrary. Maybe there are documents that explain what he’s talking about. Documents that show by what matrix he judges American progress. It could be very instructive. I’m picturing a roadmap with “democracy” on one end and “socialism” on the other, with a little picture of Obama halfway along the path.
I guess we’ll probably never know.