|March 18, 2010|
|Obama (So Far) Fails Transparency Test|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|How's "Sunshine Week" treating you? |
Since the open government initiative led by the American Society of News Editors and bankrolled by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation wraps up March 20, there is still a little time to check on how President Barack Obama is doing on his promise to run the most transparent government in U.S. history.
After eight years of President George W. Bush and the obsessive secrecy of Vice President Dick Cheney, that was a refreshing promise. Alas, as he did with other campaign pledges, Obama fell short on his promise of transparency. Way, way short.
Results of two surveys released this week bear that out.
Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University ran a poll from Feb. 3 to March 9 that found most people consider the Obama White House as secret as its predecessor.
That's despite Obama’s Jan. 21, 2009 directive -- signed with great fanfare on his first day of office -- calling for open government and speedy action to information requests.
About a third of the respondents were aware of Obama's directive to adopt a "presumption in favor of disclosure" when it came to Freedom of Information requests. Nearly half of them (47 percent) say the directive did not make federal agencies more open. Thirty-two percent believe agencies are more open, and 21 percent don't know.
The Knight Open Government Survey reinforced the other poll's findings. It reported that only 13 of 90 federal agencies have taken "concrete steps" to open up public information. On Tuesday, an embarrassed White House ordered agencies to get cracking to ensure "full implementation" of the President’s directive and admitted that more work will be done.
Joe Blanton, director of George Washington University’s National Security Archive, which conducted the Survey, is impressed by the swift White House reaction to the report. He has been filing FOIA requests for more than 30 years.
Open government types vow to keep pressure on the White House. Obama faces issues in such areas as healthcare, financial/healthcare/economic reform and Iraq/Afghanistan that will impact this country for years to come. Decisions based on openness and free debate yield the best possible policies for all.
Time will tell whether the Obama White House sets the standard for FOIA action, or continues to turn a deaf ear to citizens seeking information about the the workings of their government.
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