The shadow of the head of U.S. President Barack Obama falls upon a copy of the U.S. Constitution as he makes a speech on America’s national security at the National Archives in Washington, May 21, 2009.
– Helen Thomas, 2006
And in post-Bush Obama nation? How is that sunlight before signing and transparency-thingie going?
While there have been successes, there also have been some outrageous abuses of the public’s right to know, perhaps most notably in the Department of Justice’s refusal to disclose documents concerning the handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. Two Panthers dressed in paramilitary clothes were videotaped maliciously blocking a Philadelphia polling place last November, making the criminal case against them open and shut. Last May, somebody under Attorney General Eric Holder dropped the three most serious charges against the menacing duo. Despite repeated inquiries by Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Lamar Smith of Texas, as well as The Washington Times, the DOJ has refused to disclose key documents about the case.
Then yesterday, the Associated Press published the results of its in-depth study of how federal agencies have responded to Obama’s directive instructing them to comply with the FOIA more aggressively than was done under President George W. Bush. Unfortunately, according to the AP analysis, agencies have instead responded by being even more restrictive, using the law’s vague “deliberative process” exemption at least 70,779 times in nine months in 2009, compared to 47,395 times during Bush’s last full year in office. Eisen countered that there were “problems” with AP’s counting, which the news service denied. But one thing is crystal clear this week: Much more sunshine is needed in government at all levels.