In 2008, President Obama promised us all sorts of fanciful things, including a high level of transparency. He would lower sea levels, eradicate any racial divide, he would finally unite America, and would make the rest of the world love us. He swore that he would pilot a “new era of open government.”
His administration would operate the most transparent government in history. Not just now, mind you but, everywhere, throughout history.
Dan Epstein, Executive Director of Cause of Action, has obtained memos that shrivel the scope of Obama’s transparency claims. In 2009, concurrent with wild promises of a transparent government, the administration created additional rules designed to slow down compliance with requests for government documents. This was accomplished very quietly.
Fox News examined the memos obtained by Mr. Epstein outlining these requirements. A large number of the rules, not surprisingly, originated from the Treasury Department, specifically, the IRS. Some but not all.
According to the documents uncovered by Epstein, “the Treasury Department in 2009 set up an additional review for requests involving ‘sensitive information.’” Epstein found the additional review requests “troubling,” expressing concerns about “the limits of government power.” Epstein isn’t alone in that concern.
Fox News added that the Treasury Department’s request for a “formal level of review” for sensitive information “would cover everything from emails to memos to calendars to travel logs for top department officials, legal advisers, senior advisers and others.” These measures gave the White House imprimatur for issues such as the IRS targeting conservative groups by slowing down their applications for tax exempt status.
The discovery didn’t end solely with IRS-generated stumbling blocks. Fox reported that clandestine activity by the regime “covered a broad range of items. The White House sometimes got involved, slowing down the process. The memos follow reports about the administration’s use of private email accounts, and coincide with ongoing debate about government transparency — particularly with recent disclosures about widespread surveillance programs.”
The Freedom of Information Act is routinely employed by the media to obtain sensitive data from the government. The hitherto unadvertised, additional vetting procedures were designed to, if not hamstring the FOIA, certainly to cripple it.
But the media are not the only target. The additional review process can even delay Congress. What is most significant is that the report specifically states that “White House involvement was responsible in several cases for adding a significant processing delay.” Not Cincinnati, not the FBI or NSA. The White House.
Dan Epstein, found this hypocritical behavior “heavily ironic in the realm of transparency… It would seem to repudiate this notion that this is going to be the most transparent government in history.”
It would and does.