Obama’s War on Transparency
Obama’s war on transparency is forever intensifying. His crackdown on whistleblowers and attacks on legitimate journalism as national security threats are now infamous. But last week the President issued a “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies” which detailed new requirements that agencies must meet in order to tackle “insider threats,” or the threat of potential leakers and whistleblowers.
The new standards, according to Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News, are based on an October 2011 executive order, “and they reflect the ongoing tightening of safeguards on classified information in response to the voluminous leaks of the last few years.”
To illustrate the extent to which the Obama administration has driven the conduct of the Executive Branch underground, consider that the government spent more than $11 billion dollars in 2011 just on keeping secrets from the American public (compared with $4.7 billion in 2001).
Document reviews conducted by ISOO in 2009 discovered violations of classification rules in 65% of the documents examined, with several agencies posting error rates of more than 90%. According to the ISOO, the government made a record 76,795,945 classification decisions in 2010, an increase of more than 40% from 2009.
“To me it illustrates the most important problem — namely that we are classifying far too much information,” Aftergood has said. “The credibility of the classification system is collapsing under the weight of bogus secrets.”
At this point, though, the Obama administration is just piling on:
But the latest issuance also illustrates the superfluousness (or worse) of current congressional action concerning leaks. Executive branch agencies do not need Congress to tell them to develop “a comprehensive insider threat program management plan,” as would be required by the Senate version of the pending FY2013 Intelligence Authorization Act (section 509). Such plans will go forward in any case.
And this intelligence bill contains measures intended to restrict contacts between reporters and government officials, in an attempt to crack down on press freedoms when they happen to conflict with what Obama wants Americans to read about.
Sen. Ron Wyden has spoken out against the bill. “I have been on the Senate Intelligence Committee for 12 years now, and I can recall numerous specific instances where I found out about serious government wrongdoing–such as the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, or the CIA’s coercive interrogation program–only as a result of disclosures by the press,” he said. And Obama is out to change that.
Sen. Ron Wyden has placed a hold on the pending intelligence bill, citing objections to several of the proposed anti-leak provisions contained in Title V of the bill. He said the proposed steps were misguided or counterproductive.
“I am concerned that they will lead to less-informed public debate about national security issues, and also undermine the due process rights of intelligence agency employees, without actually enhancing national security,” he said on November 14.
Obama’s efforts have the feel of making these secrecy measures a permanent fixture of the US government.
“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” – Patrick Henry