Obama’s promise to America in 2009 was, “I won’t stop fighting to open up government…we will achieve our goal of making this administration the most open and transparent administration in history.”
Four years later, this promise has gone the way of every other talking point on his campaign trail of lies. His administration actually has the worst record of transparency. We can’t hold our government accountable if we do not know what it is up to.
On his first full day in office in January 2009, Barack Obama announced a Presidential Memo on the Freedom of Information Act, promising to usher in a “new era of openness. The Freedom of Information Act…is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.”
Yet, Obama and his agencies have violated the FOIA repeatedly and continue to stonewall requests for information.
Worse than refusing to comply with the law is the fact that his administration is actively violating it and building cover-ups to hide their true actions. The biggest scandal has been former EPA head Lisa Jackson, who was found to be using a fake name under a private email account so she could escape oversight.
Investigations are starting to tell the whole tale. The Associated Press requested records on the White House’s “Open Government Directive,” which are rules directing every agency to take immediate, specific steps to open up their operations to the public. (The AP is still waiting on those records.)
A Bloomberg News investigation in late 2012 asked for what should be a simple public request: 2011 taxpayer-supported travel for Cabinet secretaries and top government officials—and the Small Business Administration was the only agency to provide the requested information within the 20-day time period. Only six cabinet-rank organizations complied at all.
Barack Obama likes to give big speeches with big ideas that don’t apply to him. Under his watch, FOIA lawsuits have jumped 28 percent, and a Bloomberg investigation found that only one out of twenty cabinet-level agencies fully obeyed the law. Yet, our Denier-In-Chief insists that his is the most transparent administration of the modern era.
Why has the Environmental Protection Agency been operating in relative secrecy? During this time we got cap and trade, erroneous reports and a big push to adopt U.N. climate resolutions. If they are working on big issues like this behind the scenes, what else are they up to and how will it impact America in the future?
Obama is desperately trying to keep the lid on the pot. He didn’t want to turn over photos related to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal…so voila...he wrote a new law saying he didn’t have to. And a few months after he became president, he didn’t want to release White House visitor records. Finally, he said he would, but only going forward, and he continued to fight in court to keep early visitor logs secret. The only reason for this would be, he has something to hide.
A bipartisan effort to expose the truth and stop FOIA stonewalls is underway by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD). They sent a six-page letter to the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy asking about backlogs, regulation updates, and compliance failures—in total, 23 points relating to the government’s refusal to share information with the public. They are expecting a response and a briefing by February 22nd, but we assume they shouldn’t hold their breath given the Obama administration’s track record.
Also, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is looking into the illegal EPA email accounts, saying those accounts “may have been an attempt to circumvent the Federal Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and Congressional oversight.”
The American people must become very involved with this issue, because our government cannot be allowed to operate in private, without accountability, responsibility, or oversight. It is becoming a cycle spinning out of control—the Department of Justice, responsible for making sure agencies are in compliance with the FOIA, is one of the biggest violators of the Act.
The federal government, which Obama promised would be “open and transparent,” is dismissive and out of control. It is not something we can allow to continue as we move closer and closer to tyranny.
Fax Congress and support the investigation by Reps. Issa and Cummings, and let every Member of Congress know that we will not tolerate our government violating the rule of law.