The Obama administration promised to be the most transparent administration in U.S. history, but according to a recent report by the Associated Press, the reverse might be true. More often than ever, the administration “censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, 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.”
According to the government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies over six years, the administration made “few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records.” Last year the federal government showed the “worst” record on transparency since President Obama took office.
The government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times, a 57 percent increase over 2012 and more than double Obama’s first year. The Defense Department, NSA, and CIA were the worst offenders but hardly alone. As the AP report notes, “the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency cited national security six times, the Environmental Protection Agency did twice and the National Park Service once.”
The EPA denied 458 out of 468 expediting requests, and the State Department 332 out of 334. Homeland Security denied 1,384 such requests, a full 94 percent of the total. And more than ever the government censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them. That happened in 244,675 cases or 36 percent of all requests. On 196,034 other occasions, “the government said it couldn’t find records,” and in some material it did release the government “completely marked out nearly every paragraph.”
Contrary to claims, the federal government is more opaque than ever, so citizens are less informed. The federal government is more intrusive than ever, but citizens are not more secure.
With all its mass surveillance, and even a tip-off from the Russian government, the U.S. government failed to prevent the attack on the Boston Marathon last April 15. Likewise, the government knew about the deadly plans of Major Nidal Hasan but did nothing to stop his deadly rampage at Ford Hood in 2009.