Earlier this year, then NY Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson called out the Obama administration for being the most secretive in history, despite the claims of Obama himself that his would be “the most transparent administration in history.” Not only has this administration used the Espionage Act to go after whistleblowers more times than every other administration in history combined, it’s currently fighting a legal battle to put NYT journalist Jim Risen in jail for refusing to reveal a source. It’s also denied more FOIA requests than any other administration in history. The White House has ridiculously tried to defend its “most transparent in history” claims by pointing to the fact that unlike previous administrations, this one releases visitor logs. Whoop. De. Doo.
At a big journalism confab in Chicago, apparently anger about the administration’s unprecedented level of secrecy boiled over as journalists vehemently criticized the lengths to which this administration will go to block journalists and to create significant chilling effects.
“The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations — from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events,” Brian Carovillano, AP managing editor for U.S. news, said during a panel discussion.
Reporters noted that sources are now afraid to talk to them, given the crackdown on leaks — though, again, it only happens on leaks the administration doesn’t like. When the leaks make the White House look good, no investigations, hounding or prosecutions happen. However, if you leak something the administration doesn’t like — such as blowing the whistle on corrupt government practices, the administration has an official policy that you are “aiding the enemy.”
And while some might claim (incorrectly, usually) that there’s a legitimate argument there when it comes to leaks involving national security, the crackdown goes way beyond that:
The AP’s Washington chief of bureau, Sally Buzbee, said the Obama administration’s efforts to control information extend even to agencies not directly involved in intelligence gathering. Some sources, she said, have reportedly been warned they could be fired for even talking to a reporter.
“Day-to-day intimidation of sources is also extremely chilling,” she said.
Buzbee said she’s frequently asked if the Obama administration, when it comes to transparency, is worse than the administration of President George W. Bush.
“Bush was not fantastic,” she said. She added, “The (Obama) administration is significantly worse than previous administrations.”
We tend to agree that the following statement is a ridiculous one in most situations, but since government officials seem to use it all the time, it seems worth asking: if they’ve done nothing wrong, what do they have to hide?