As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Most Transparent Government In History

The Obama Administration has really taken to this executive power and official secrecy thing. Duck, meet water. This has all happened in the past week:


The Obama administration is fighting to block access to names of visitors to the White House, taking up the Bush administration argument that a president doesn't have to reveal who comes calling to influence policy decisions.

Despite President Barack Obama's pledge to introduce a new era of transparency to Washington, and despite two rulings by a federal judge that the records are public, the Secret Service has denied's request for the names of all White House visitors from Jan. 20 to the present. It also denied a narrower request by the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which sought logs of visits by executives of coal companies.

The Guardian UK:

A rift has opened between the Obama administration and some of its closest allies - Democratic leaders and environmental organisations - over its refusal to publicly disclose the location of 44 coal ash dumps that have been officially designated as a "high hazard" to local populations.

The administration turned down a request from a powerful Democratic senator to make public the list of 44 dumps, which contain a toxic soup of arsenic and heavy metals from coal-fired electricity plants, citing terrorism fears.

The LA Times:

He was appointed with fanfare in December as public watchdog over the government's multibillion-dollar bailout of the nation's financial system. But now Neil Barofsky, inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, is embroiled in a dispute with the Obama administration that delayed one recent inquiry and sparked questions about his ability to investigate without interference.

The Treasury Department contends that Barofsky does not have a completely independent role. That claim prompted a stern letter from a Republican senator, who warns that Obama administration officials are encroaching on the integrity of an office created to protect taxpayers.

The Washington Post:

A federal judge yesterday sharply questioned an assertion by the Obama administration that former Vice President Richard B. Cheney's statements to a special prosecutor about the Valerie Plame case must be kept secret, partly so they do not become fodder for Cheney's political enemies or late-night commentary on "The Daily Show."

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan expressed surprise during a hearing here that the Justice Department, in asserting that Cheney's voluntary statements to U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald were exempt from disclosure, relied on legal claims put forward last October by a Bush administration political appointee, Stephen Bradbury. The department asserted then that the disclosure would make presidents and vice presidents reluctant to cooperate voluntarily with future criminal investigations.

The Plum Line:

On Friday, there may be a major development in the torture wars: The CIA is set to release portions of a 2004 report that reportedly found no proof that torture foiled any terror plots, which would dramatically undercut Dick Cheney’s claims that torture worked.

But a news story this morning raises the question: Is the CIA trying to keep chunks that would undermine Cheney under wraps?

That last one may concern the CIA, but I'm pretty sure they work for somebody in the White House. And that's just from this week, there are countless other examples of using the state secrets privilege to shut down lawsuits, breaking a campaign promise to post every bill passed by Congress on the White House website for public comment before signing, and on and on and on.

Progressives battled George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on their unprecedented offical secrecy on the merits, but also out of a recognition that there is such a thing as Presidential precedent. If one President can get away with aggrandizing their power, the successor would certainly watch and learn. Which is exactly what has happened.

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