The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

March 10, 2013

Report finds Obama still secretive despite transparency vow

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has relied on state secrets and secret laws to make national security decisions with little congressional or public oversight much as his predecessor did, according to a report being released Sunday by a liberal government watchdog group.

The Center for Effective Government’s study on transparency finds that Obama has issued important open government policy reforms in his first term, but that implementation is inconsistent across federal agencies despite his claim of being the most open president in history.

“While the Obama administration deserves praise for the important work it has done to build a platform for open government in its first term, the job is unfinished,” according to the report.

The center, formerly called OMB Watch, issued the report at the start of Sunshine Week, an effort by civics groups, governments and newspapers to promote transparency in government across the nation. A copy was sent to the White House, but officials there did not respond to a request for comment.

The 50-page study says the area most in need of improvement is national security. The White House has withheld decisions and documents that have the force of law, labeled documents as classified even if they do not need to be and aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers, bringing six cases against employees for leaks compared to only three known previous cases since 1917.

And the administration, like the George W. Bush administration before it, has sought the dismissal of cases against the U.S. government claiming entire topics are privileged, not just specific records. For example, it invoked the privilege to dismiss a case challenging the targeting of U.S. citizen and alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a drone in Yemen in 2011.

Bush was criticized for authorizing a secret domestic spying program and military tribunals without court involvement after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Obama has been questioned for authorizing the military’s use of drones to kill suspected terrorists overseas, including Americans. After pressure, the White House recently released to lawmakers justifications for the killings.

Obama acknowledged that the administration had work to do in providing information about the killings last month during a White House “fireside hangout” hosted online by Google. “I am not somebody who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants, or whatever she wants whenever they want just under the guise of counterterrorism,” he said.

On his first day in office, Obama offered a sweeping promise of transparency, issuing a number of executive actions to provide more openness at every level of federal government and greater disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act

“My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government,” Obama wrote at the time. “Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.”

The center praised the administration for its use of technology to make information more available and more user-friendly through social media and websites that provided, among other things, more information about federal spending and White House visitors.

But while some agencies have embraced open government, others have failed to provide basic information or write concrete goals. Some have erected new hurdles such as more fees for those seeking records, the report said.

For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration wrote a plan with more than 80 goals with deadlines while the Department of Justice offered no significant expansions in transparency, instead focusing primarily on preexisting policies.

“The Obama administration established an impressive array of important open government reforms,” said Sean Moulton, the center’s director of open government policy. “However, implementation has lagged at many agencies.”

During the first two years, several high-level White House employees were involved in the effort. But after several departures, no single person is in charge of implementing the president’s vision. An interagency group devoted to open government convened by the White House meets regularly, but does not provide records on those meetings, according to the report.

(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)

For Obama’s second term, the center recommends the administration require agencies to implement plans and appoint officials to manage open government, better respond to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act and work with Congress to pass bills about transparency.

In the area of national security, it urges the administration to halt the inappropriate classification of public documents, allow whistleblowers to speak freely and look for legislation that will provide more checks and balances.

Said Katherine McFate, center president: “The Obama administration has four more years to ensure that its policies are embedded in the operating practices of federal agencies and deliver meaningful, lasting results for the American people.”

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • REPORT: Retaliation by supervisors common at VA

    A pharmacy supervisor at the VA was placed on leave after complaining about errors and delays in delivering medications to patients at a hospital in Palo Alto, California. In Pennsylvania, a doctor was removed from clinical work after complaining that on-call doctors were refusing to go to a VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

    July 22, 2014

  • Veteran's Ducks Iraq vet cited for owning 14 therapeutic pet ducks

    An Army veteran who hurt his back during the Iraq War is worried a citation will result in him losing his 14 pet ducks, which he says are therapeutic.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stacked Apartment.jpg New York building shows how mod design stacks up as cool

    In a city piled high with ambitious architecture, a seven-floor structure off the beaten path boasts a distinction of its own: It’s billed as the first multistory, modular-built apartment building to open in the nation’s apartment capital.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scores dead in first major ground battle in Gaza

    The first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price Sunday: It killed 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighborhood, reportedly used to launch rockets at Israel and now devastated by the fighting.

    July 21, 2014

  • Traditional lottery games hold their own

    Ohio’s traditional lottery games are mostly doing well despite competition from their electronic counterparts at four racinos.

    July 20, 2014

  • HIV diagnosis rate fell by third in U.S. over decade

    The rate of HIV infections diagnosed in the United States each year fell by one-third over the past decade, a government study finds. Experts celebrated it as hopeful news that the AIDS epidemic may be slowing in the U.S.

    July 20, 2014

  • Suddenly, the sun is eerily quiet: Where did the sunspots go?

    The sun has gone quiet. Almost too quiet.

    July 20, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.

    July 19, 2014

  • Israeli bulldozers destroy Hamas tunnels in Gaza

     Israeli bulldozers on Saturday demolished more than a dozen tunnels the military said were being used by Hamas gunmen to sneak beneath the southern border of the Jewish state and carry out attacks on its soldiers and civilians.

    July 19, 2014

  • Credible probe sought in downing of Malaysian jet

    World leaders demanded Friday that pro-Russia rebels who control the eastern Ukraine crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 give immediate, unfettered access to independent investigators to determine who shot down the plane.

    July 19, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video