The White House is Transparent About Not Being Transparent
What this tells me is that "transparency" is only important when it comes to everyone but the White House. OMG! The official quote goes something like this: "Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former president wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so; it will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well-grounded in the Constitution. Let me say it as simply as I can: transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."
Soooooo... how is that working out so far?
In his first full day at the White House almost 14 months ago, President Obama declared openness and transparency to be touchstones of his administration, and he ordered federal agencies to make it easier for the public to get information on the workings of government.
Indeed, Mr. Obama’s administration has posted White House visitor logs online, it has made public the once-classified memorandums on torture policies in the George W. Bush administration, and it has developed an internal system for archiving its own unclassified e-mail messages.
But a new report released Sunday by a private research group, the National Security Archive, suggests that the results of Mr. Obama’s push for transparency have been decidedly mixed across the federal government, with progress slow and erratic.
Erm, from the National Security Archive:
The Rosemary Award for worst open government performance, named after President Nixon’s secretary who erased 18 ½ minutes of a crucial Watergate tape, this year goes to the Federal Chief Information Officers Council, the senior federal officials (responsible for $71 billion a year of IT purchases) who have never addressed the failure of the government to save its e-mail electronically, according to the citation today by the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org).
Formed by Executive Order in 1996 and codified in law by Congress in the 2002 E-Government Act, the CIO Council describes itself as the “principle interagency forum for improving practices in the design, modernization, use, operation, sharing, and performance of Federal Government information resources.” Yet neither the Council’s founding documents, its 2007-2009 strategic plan, its transition memo for the Obama administration, nor its current Web site even mention the challenge of electronic records management for e-mail.
Last month, the Justice Department investigation of former senior officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee over their authorship of the so-called “torture memos” revealed that “most of Yoo’s email records had been deleted and were not recoverable.” The Yoo deletions represent only the latest red flag about government e-mail preservation – dating back to the January 1989 attempt by the Reagan administration to destroy its e-mail backup tapes, thwarted by the National Security Archive’s lawsuit.
A 2008 survey by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and OpenTheGovernment.org did not find a single federal agency policy that mandates an electronic record keeping system agency-wide. Congressional testimony in 2008 by the Government Accountability Office indicted the standard “print and file” approach by pointing out: “agencies recognize that devoting significant resources to creating paper records from electronic sources is not a viable long-term strategy”; yet GAO concluded even the “print and file” system was failing to capture the historic records “for about half of the senior officials” checked – John Yoo’s peers.
Transparency! Accountability! It's your money (not really, it's actually your great-great-grandchildren's money but let's not split hairs) and we want you to know what we're doing with it, America!