We all remember how Barack Obama promised to have the "most transparent presidency” in history. The evidence, however, shows that not only has the Commander in Chief failed to live up to this lofty campaign promise, but he has actually made the presidency more opaque.
How would you gauge the transparency level of the administration? Well, you could look at the NSA and IRS scandals for evidence. In both cases, Federal agencies were illegally and secretly weaponized to be used against the American people. Or, you could look at the Benghazi attack and see how the administration has classified the details of its response that fateful night. You can definitely use these three cases to measure the opacity of the regime, but they still only provide a partial look at the administration's practices...
One obvious way to measure transparency (or lack thereof) is to count the number of times that civilian records requests are denied, and why they are denied. Last year saw a dramatic uptick in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) denials and the reasons behind the denials are typical: national security.
Every day, Americans file FOIA applications, asking the Federal government to make records available to the public. Since 1966, the Freedom of Information Act has sought to bring transparency to government agencies that are usually anything but… The irony is that within the law’s first decade on the books, the Nixon administration would prove that while the American people may have the right to answers, Presidents will continue to classify potentially damning documents.
One year ago, Barack Obama claimed during a Google Hangout ‘fireside chat’ that his Presidency was the “most transparent administration in history.” He told the American people that he had the data to prove it. Well, like so many other things that leave Barry Soetoro’s lips, this was a lie as well. The data shows that in many cases, the Obama administration is the LEAST transparent administration in recent memory.
Citizens and journalists made 704,394 FOIA requests to Federal agencies and bureaus in 2013 (a 2% increase from the previous year). Generally, citizens can compel the Federal government to release documents at little to no cost, as long as the exposure wouldn’t threaten national security, personal privacy, or shed light on confidential decision-making practices. Last year, the Obama administration used these “exceptions” 546,574 times!
Obviously, there are certain aspects of government that cannot be declassified. So, the Obama administration will inevitably have to deny some records requests. But, the number of times that the regime denied a FOIA request for “national security” reasons has skyrocketed.
In 2013, a total of 8,496 records requests were denied for national security reasons. That represents a 57% increase year-over-year and almost double the amount of national security denials issued during Obama’s first year in office.
In 2007, Congress amended the Freedom of Information Act to make records requests easier to accomplish. As of today, exactly half of all Federal agencies have failed or refused to update their FOIA regulations to comply with the changes to the law. How can the administration be the most transparent in history when it isn’t even following the law with regards to records disclosure?
Surprisingly, some Democrats are actually taking up the issue to push for actual transparency. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned that the ease of denying request can be tempting. “If you screw up in government,” he says, “just mark it ‘top secret.’”
The NSA has received a 138% surge in records requests, most surrounding its illegal program monitoring Americans’ phone records. Want to know what “transparency” looks like in the Obama era? The NSA received 4,328 FOIA requests and it censored or denied 4,246 of them. That is 98.1% of the time!
When the media is working on a story, it can also request so-called “expedited processing.” These requests usually involve topics of specific public importance.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency received 468 expedited requests and denied 458 of them (97.8%);
The State Department received 344 expedited requests and denied 332 of them (96.5%);
Eric Holder’s Department of Justice received 1,017 expedited requests and denied 900 of them (88.4%);
And the Department of Homeland Security denied 1,384 expedited requests, roughly 94% of all submitted.
This isn’t transparency… this is tyranny!
The American people have the right to know what their government is up to, especially when it concerns their safety and privacy. When the federal government gives firearms to Mexican drug cartels, and one of those weapons is used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol Agent, the Obama administration shouldn’t be allowed to just classify those documents. When it is revealed that the NSA is monitoring literally EVERYTHING that you do electronically, the Agency shouldn’t be allowed to continually deny that such programs exist.
Throughout our history, Congress has been the champion of increasing government transparency. It was only in the 1970s that Congress asserted its authority to oversee the intelligence community. Yet today, Congress is allowing this Imperial President to walk all over it!
I’d like to think that Obama really wants to increase government transparency, but it seems that the absolute power of the Presidency has corrupted him absolutely. The alternative is that he never intended to increase transparency at all (which is also likely).
Congress amended the Freedom of Information Act in 2007 and half of Obama’s agencies have completely ignored these amendments. Congress must reassert its authority and force the Obama administration to follow the law and make government records available to the public!