Hope™ and Change™?
The Most Transparent Administration in History™?
Yeah, and have we got a bridge to sell you
If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re gonna tell you that Barack Obama presides over the most secretive administration of the last 50 years.
Hell, the guy makes Dubya look like a card carryin’ member of the ACLU.
Hardly. Even the damn White House state dinner wine lists have been declared state secrets by Barry’s bunch.
From Margaret Talev of Bloomberg:
When British Prime Minister David Cameron visits President Barack Obama this week, one detail may stay bottled up: the labels on the wines the White House pours at the state dinner tomorrow night.
For Obama’s first three state dinners, honoring the leaders of India, Mexico and China, the White House released the name, year and appellation of wines — all-American — paired with each course.
Part of a tradition observed by previous presidents, including George W. Bush, that disclosure stopped after Obama’s dinner last year for Chinese President Hu Jintao. One of the wines served on Jan. 19, 2011, was a top-rated 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington state that originally sold for $115 a bottle and went for as much as $399 by the time of the dinner. The price the White House paid per bottle was not made public.
And that was the last time the wine lists were released.
Talley found the probable reason:
Tyler Colman, who writes the Dr. Vino wine blog and teaches at New York University, said in an interview that the shift in menu protocol may reflect political considerations given the sluggish U.S. economy.
“They’re probably sensitive to displays of wealth at a time when the economy is not firing on all cylinders,” said Colman, whose blog had noted the absence of wines on the German state dinner menu the White House released.
Call it a Marie Antoiette moment.
Obama joins the Secret Six
But at least the administration is acknowledging wines will be served.
However when it comes to any agreements between the super-secret National Security Agency and Google, they won’t even go that far.
From Mike Scarcella of The Blog of Legal Times:
The Justice Department is defending the government’s refusal to discuss—or even acknowledge the existence of—any cooperative research and development agreement between Google and the National Security Agency.
The Washington based advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center sued in federal district court here to obtain documents about any such agreement between the Internet search giant and the security agency.
The NSA responded to the suit with a so-called “Glomar” response in which the agency said it could neither confirm nor deny whether any responsive records exist. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington sided with the government last July.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear the dispute March 20.
And if you suspect you’re seeing a pattern here, you’re right.
Way back in our college days, esnl and best friend Bill Willoughby discovered we could buy blue jeans and blue work shirts new for a buck each after a fire at the local dry goods store, so we loaded up, appearing in class for two or three days straight in identical garb.
Bob Buchanan, our history prof, finally asked Bill, “What’s with you guys and the clothes.” Bill, one of the wittiest people we ever knew, replied, “Oh, it’s because we belong to the Secret Six?”
“Yeah,?” said Bob.
“Yip,” Bill responded. “It’s so damn secret we don’t even know who the other four are.”
Well, now we know another one.
As for that pattern
One fellow who spotted the trend is Richard Lardner of the Associated Press:
In the middle of Sunshine Week, when news organizations and advocacy groups promote government transparency, the Obama administration urged Congress on Tuesday to keep secret a whole new category of information even under the Freedom of Information Act.
A few miles away, the White House organized a conference call with two senior administration officials to preview an announcement by President Barack Obama about an important China trade issue but told reporters that no one could be quoted by name. The officials were U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, Michael Froman.
On Capitol Hill, the director of the Justice Department’s office of information policy, Melanie Ann Pustay, told senators they need to protect against public disclosures of material about cybersecurity, critical U.S. computer networks, industrial plants, pipelines and more. Businesses have sought such a new exemption under the law for at least 10 years.
Obama has promised that his administration will be the most transparent in American history. But events on Tuesday illustrate that old habits die hard.
Pustay told the Senate Judiciary Committee that a Supreme Court ruling in March 2011 narrowed an exemption under the records law and left federal agencies unable to protect secrets about cybersecurity and critical infrastructures, even though the Justice Department since then has recommended at least three other ways under current law to justify withholding such information.
Denial is a river, the Potomac
The Los Angeles Times noted the Obama administration’s secrecy obsession in a 31 October editorial, written after the Obamans took their penchant to absurd heights, and setting a precedent we suspect Republicans will invoke in support of their proposed laws to give doctors the legal right to lie when women ask if they’re pregnant [to stop them from having abortions, naturally]:
One of the most disappointing attributes of the Obama administration has been its proclivity for secrecy. The president who committed himself to “an unprecedented level of openness in government” has followed the example of his predecessor by invoking the “state secrets” privilege to derail litigation about government misdeeds in the war on terror. He has refused to release the administration’s secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, which two senators have described as alarming. He has blocked the dissemination of photographs documenting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. service members. And now his Justice Department has proposed to allow government agencies to lie about the existence of documents being sought under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
At present, if the government doesn’t want to admit the existence of a document it believes to be exempt from FOIA, it may advise the person making the request that it can neither confirm nor deny the document’s existence. Under the proposed regulation, an agency that withholds a document “will respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”
This guy is even worse than Bush when it comes to secrecy.
Are we surprised? No. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. He’s creature of Chicago Democratic Party machine politics, where secrecy and backroom deals have always ruled.