Is Obama Fulfilling 'Transparency' Promises?

Written by Andrew Kreig
Published on March 16, 2013

The Obama administration often fails to uphold its rhetoric claiming open government, according to an expert speaker at a conference March 15 in Washington, DC.

The Justice Department and White House Office of Management and Budget appear to be resisting valuable freedom of information policies other departments are implementing, said Anne Wesimann, chief counsell for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Part of the resistence takes the form of a failure by about half of all federal departments in creating regulations to implement a 2010 federal law on public access. Further, many agencies fight information-seekers in court rather than comply with statutory deadlines. 

Weismann, who described a highly promising electronic freedom of information system used by the National Archives, Environmental Protection Agency, and a half dozen other departments, was an opening panelist on an all-day session attended by approximately 150 persons at the Newseum in recognition of "2013 National Freedom of Information Day."

Weismann, a former staffer with the Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department, and several other speakers provided a number of practical tips for frustrated researchers, as well as several stimulating policy questions. Two government speakers responded to Weismann's remarks. The program for this valuable conference is available through the website of one of its sponsors, OpenGovernment.org

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) recommended several steps that would make government more transparent. Among them were to post electronically on agency websites their:

  • Congressional testimony and other officials communications with Congress
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and results
  • Visitor logs
  • Employee directories
  • Calendars of top officials

Brian and other panelists said some agencies say such measures are impossible, whereas others are already undertaking several of the measures. The event was hosted by the First Amendment Center, an operating program of the Freedom Forum and is associated with the Newseum and the Diversity Institute. The center has offices in the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and at the Newseum.

 
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BBC, The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon's 'treason,' David Taylor, March 15, 2013. Declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson's telephone calls provide a fresh insight into his world. Among the revelations -- he planned a dramatic entry into the 1968 Democratic Convention to re-join the presidential race. And he caught Richard Nixon sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks... but said nothing. After the Watergate scandal taught Richard Nixon the consequences of recording White House conversations none of his successors have dared to do it. But Nixon wasn't the first. He got the idea from his predecessor Lyndon Johnson, who felt there was an obligation to allow historians to eventually eavesdrop on his presidency. "They will provide history with the bark off," Johnson told his wife, Lady Bird. The final batch of tapes released by the LBJ library covers 1968, and allows us to hear Johnson's private conversations as his Democratic Party tore itself apart over the question of Vietnam.

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