Back on October 28, 2009, then White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the following:
… understanding what this President has done is institute the very toughest ethics and transparency rules of any administration in history… I think the President has returned to a stance of transparency and ethics that hasn’t been matched by any other White House.
… the President believes strongly in transparency… that transparency in that way in the best policy
… understand that what the President campaigned on – toughening our ethics rules, making more transparent our transparency policy – was something that he was passionate about and is proud of the progress that we’ve made in ensuring that.
And here is the president himself: “We have put in place the toughest ethics and transparency laws of any administration in history.”
Lies, lies, and nothing but lies. The lies end now.
As reported moments ago, the White House is voiding a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA (incidentally the same act that discovered none of Hillary Clinton’s “personal” government-business emails since they were not even stored on government property!) which as USA Today explains, makes “official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office.”
And just like that the lie of Obama’s transparency is over, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for the democratic party, just as its top contender for the 2016 presidential race is struggling to emerge from a cover-up scandal which reeks of intentional hiding of classified documentation from the public (or worse). Going forward it will no longer be Hillary Clinton who will be mocked and ridiculed for her total impunity when it comes to public accountability and transparency, but the “most untransparent” president as well.
The White House said the cleanup of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings that hold that the office is not subject to the transparency law. The office handles, among other things, White House record-keeping duties like the archiving of e-mails.
Actually, Obama really couldn’t have picked worse timing because not only does it come hot on the heels of clintonemail.com, but the announcement also is taking place on National Freedom of Information Day and during a national debate over the preservation of Obama administration records. It’s also Sunshine Week, an effort by news organizations and watchdog groups to highlight issues of government transparency. Almost as if the president of the US is openly mocking the public, making it clear he is accountable to no one (except of course for a few mega corporations: see: The Best “Democracy” Money Can Buy: For Every Dollar Spent Influencing US Politics, Corporations Get $760 Back)
“The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me,” said Anne Weismann of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.
“It is completely out of step with the president’s supposed commitment to transparency,” she said. “That is a critical office, especially if you want to know, for example, how the White House is dealing with e-mail.”
But who wants to know that? Can’t the peasants just pay attention to the rigged all time high in the Apple Sachs Non-industrial Average and just leave the troubled leader of the free world alone?
The irony here is that with this act, Obama is now becoming even less transparent than the loathed by the left Bush dynasty:
Unlike other offices within the White House, which were always exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, the Office of Administration responded to FOIA requests for 30 years. Until the Obama administration, watchdog groups on the left and the right used records from the office to shed light on how the White House works.
“This is an office that operated under the FOIA for 30 years, and when it became politically inconvenient, they decided they weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act any more,” said Tom Fitton of the conservative Judicial Watch.
That happened late in the Bush administration, when CREW sued over e-mails deleted by the White House — as many as 22 million of them, by one accounting. The White House at first began to comply with that request, but then reversed course.
“The government made an argument in an effort to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the lawsuit in order to stop the archiving of White House e-mails,” said Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has used similar requests to shed light on foreign policy decisions.
As USA Today further explains, the rule change means that there will no longer be a formal process for the public to request that the White House voluntarily disclose records as part of what’s known as a “discretionary disclosure.” Records released by the Office of Administration voluntarily include White House visitor logs and the recipe for beer brewed at the White House.
“You have a president who comes in and says, I’m committed to transparency and agencies should make discretionary disclosures whenever possible, but he’s not applying that to his own White House,” Weismann said.
Why wait until now? The White House did not explain why it waited nearly six years to formally acknowledge the court ruling in its regulations.
Because accountability, that’s why. No really: “In the notice to be published Tuesday, the White House said it was not allowing a 30-day public comment period, and so the rule will be final.”
Well, at least Obama has a sense of humor as he brings the country ever closer to the police state so well forecast by George Orwell: “It’s a little tone deaf to do this on Sunshine Week, even if it’s an administrative housecleaning,” said Rick Blum, coordinator of the Sunshine in Government initiative for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.”
And the punchline: the notice that will be published in Tuesday’s Federal Register, and in which the White House says it’s removing regulations on how the Office of Administration complies with Freedom of Information Act Requests based on “well-settled legal interpretations” is hosted on a cloud server run… by Amazon.