Transparency or Transparent Lies


by Paul Balles


A basic tenet of a healthy democracy is open dialogue and transparency. –Peter Fenn

Do you remember when President Obama called for an unprecedented level of openness in Government?

“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration,” promised the president.

When Obama appointed Yong Kim as President of the World Bank, he praised the selection process for being transparent.

In January, one headline boasted that the “Drilling Industry Responds to Obama’s Call for Transparency.”

Another headline read, “Obama campaign renews a call for transparency after a report shows Mitt Romney hiding assets from the public.”

In April, The Obama administration refused to disclose internal documents and other sources of requested information to a congressional committee.

In May, another report praised President Obama’s calls for earmark transparency when funds are approved to be spent on specific projects.

Again in May, “critics say Obama’s transparency pledge has fallen flat…. Such a transparent man who only wants to know your every phone call and internet.”

Also in May, Politico reporter Josh Gerstein commented that “President Barack Obama set a high bar for open government.”

Gerstein added, “A minute after he took office, the White House website declared his administration would become ‘the most open and transparent in history.’

“By the end of his first full day on the job, Obama had issued high-profile orders pledging ‘a new era’ and ‘an unprecedented level of openness’ across the massive federal government.”

Gerstein who has been involved in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) work through six presidencies, reports that the Obama administration has the worst FOAI record. The worst!

“The administration has embarked on an unprecedented wave of prosecutions of whistle blowers and alleged leakers.”

The role of the Justice Department in locking up Bradley Manning for whistle blowing is a case in point.

The same executive branch under Obama is after Assange for publishing the information supplied by Manning to Wikileaks.

Whether Obama had intentions that he later discovered he could not fulfil or his political promises were merely seeking favourable public responses is unknown.

When reporters have tried to get classified information about the treatment of prisoners, Obama stopped it since photos of torture getting out might result in a backlash.

The fear of a backlash resulting from open reporting is an admission that the actions are criminally punishable.

Irish politician Gerry Adams aptly pointed out, “One man’s transparency is another’s humiliation.”

Illegitimate cover-ups have become standard fare for an administration that promised transparency according to Spencer Ackerman of Wired:

A congressional committee just found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of court for withholding documents and communications related to an investigation conducted by the Justice Department.

Jurgen Habermas, author of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere wrote:

In the West, the idea that government should be open to public scrutiny and susceptible to public opinion dates back at least to the time of the Enlightenment, when many philosophers made an attack on absolutist doctrine of state secrecy, a core part of their intellectual project.

Open government is widely seen as a hallmark of contemporary democratic practice and is often linked to the passing of freedom of information legislation.

Often only a few people can get access to information. Comments TV host and journalist Anderson Cooper, “I think it’s a good thing that there are bloggers out there watching very closely and holding people accountable.”

One of the praiseworthy things about the internet, androids and iPods: they increase transparency in news gathering.


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