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Most Transparent Administration Ever.

Most Transparent EverFulfilling well meaning and good sounding promises is often harder than it seems.

One of the main messages that then Senator Barack Obama ran upon was “transparency in government” and a pledge to make his administration the “most transparent administration ever.” It sounded good. It was something most people want as we tire of back room deals and a lack of accountability – which can only come with openness.

In 2009 Obama met with his senior staff and said:

I will also hold myself as president to a new standard of openness …. Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

A 2009 White House memo promises the same openness and transparency:

My Administration is committed to creating 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. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

So how’s that “transparency” working out?

WASHINGTON (AP) โ€” The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.

The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that half way through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.

In category after category โ€” except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees โ€” the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

The government said the average time it took to answer a records request ranged from less than one day to nearly two years. AP’s analysis showed that most agencies took longer to answer requests than the previous year, although the White House said the government responded more quickly and did not immediately explain how it determined that. The Pentagon reported at least two requests still pending after 10 years and the CIA was still working on at least four requests from more than eight years ago.

The AP’s request to the Health and Human Services Department for contracts with public-relations companies to promote Obama’s health care law has been pending for more than one year. Requests for files about the Affordable Care Act and the IRS’s treatment of tax-exempt political groups have languished in government offices for months. Similarly, the AP has waited for more than 10 months for emails between the IRS and outside Democratic super PACs about tea party groups.

Somehow that whole “transparency” thing isn’t working the way most people thought it would or think it should.



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