AP: Obama has failed on open government promise

AP graphic

In this new study of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, US cites security more to censor, deny records, Associated Press reporters Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum make two points that show President Obama has failed to deliver on his promise of “a new era in open government.”

“The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that half way through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.”

And:

“In a year of intense public interest over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times — a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama’s first year, when it cited that reason 3,658 times. The Defense Department, including the NSA, and the CIA accounted for nearly all those.”

My FOIA request for records of a deceased CIA officer exemplifies this malign trend. In my case the CIA classified for reasons of national security a 1944 record generated by the U.S. Post Office. Obama’s transparency policy was too weak to ever force disclosure of a 70-year-old document.

Morley v. CIA Background:

U.S. Attorney walks back a JFK story (March 3, 2014)

CIA admits undercover officer lived in New Orleans (Nov. 11, 2013)

 5 Decades Later Some JFK FIles Still Sealed (Associated Press, Aug. 18. 2013)

Justice Dept. denies CIA officer was honored for coverup (JFK Facts, Dec. 17, 2012)

Court uphold public benefit of disclsoure about CIA officer in JFK story (JFK Facts, June 19, 2013)

CIA Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery (New York Times, October 17, 2009)

 

4 comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    When I was an army officer (1970-72), there were three basic levels of classification: CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, and TOP SECRET. A garden variety security clearance coupled with a need to know allowed access to all three levels. Beyond TOP SECRET, access was based strictly on need to know and, in intelligence organizations, was governed by strict rules of compartmentalization.

    From a public interest and political standpoint, the most interesting thing I saw was a personnel file in the summer of 1970. It was classified SECRET because it involved a young intel officer. Nothing juicy or scandalous. Just some army-executive branch wranglings over a politically connected young officer who didn’t want to be assigned to Viet Nam.

    The most tightly-held information with which I dealt was known to me and just two other officers; I was in Viet Nam, they were in the Pentagon. I guarantee the information if presented here literally would make no sense to anyone reading here.

    All my experience was with military-related classified information. But I could glimpse that certain information was being stamped SECRET, for example, for political reasons. I didn’t discuss this with anyone, but it was clear.

    FOIA then was a new law and didn’t have any teeth. FOIA was aimed at government records generally but not military records. Same is true today. The Watergate scandal added teeth to FOIA in the form of judicial review.

    Intel organizations will resist disclosing methods and sources. Courts will back the refusal to disclose. The problem here is that the courts tend to bend over backward toward the intel organizations, which facilitates hiding policy and political decisions under security classifications. Hiding these decisions so the American people never get to vote on them.

    Barack Obama and George W. Bush have favored using security classifications to hide policy and political decisions. In my opinion, the extent to which they have done so has violated their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.

  2. Dan says:

    The JFK assassination is in many ways the leading case for government disclosure, and for this reason the administration should process the remaining secret records. The Warren Commission realized there needed to be disclosure to maintain public support, and it published the 26 volumes of documentary material after the report was released. The 1974 FOIA amendments were motivated in part by bad experience using FOIA to obtain information related to the JFK assassination (and Sen. Ted Kennedy strongly supported the amendments). The JFK Records Act in 1992 was a landmark law requiring more dosclosure than FOIA, and was followed by the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998. There is a historic opportunity for this administration to be the one that brings full disclosure to JFK assassination records.

  3. Charles Beyer says:

    I believe the rock group Who said it best when it comes to politicians & their campaign promises they routinely fail to keep, ‘Meet the New boss, same as the Old boss’. After a lifetime of being promised the moon it’s difficult for older persons to get worked up over political campaigns & conventions because in the end the public is still screwed, regardless of who gets elected.

  4. Gerry Simone says:

    Why would National Security be compromised for locked secrets from the JFK administration and post-assassination years?

    Probably because such details might reveal incompetence, lack of control, and possible complicity which would further undermine the confidence in the various agencies or departments of the government.

    Also, are there any people living that had anything to do or were part of the old guard?

    Voluntary disclosure would do a lot to restore such confidence.

    I doubt the public would do away with agencies that we continue to rely upon to protect against real threats, domestic or foreign.

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