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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 12/ 2/2010

The most transparent administration ever?

By Jennifer Rubin

That is how the Obama administration billed itself. The reality is quite different. Whether it has been in denying release of documentation on recidivism among detainees released from Guantanmo, or concealing the political involvement of Obama appointees in the decision to dismiss the New Black Panther voter intimidation case, or stonewalling on whether Justice Department lawyers had properly recused themselves from cases relating to matters in which they previously represented terrorism suspects, the modus operandi has been to delay, delay and ultimately deny access to documents.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard a case involving the Freedom of Information Act, the mechanism that is supposed to permit disclosure of documents that are in the public interest. Petitioner Glen Scott Milner, a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, filed suit under FOIA after the U.S. Navy denied him certain documents relating to dangers posed by explosives kept on a small island off the Washington coast. The Obama administration claimed an exemption protecting personnel documents under FOIA. Lower courts sided with the government.

But the government got a rough going over from the high court. Several justices showed concern for the government's overly generous interpretation of the category of documents excluded from FOIA. Chief Justice John Roberts asked if the government's lawyer wasn't asking the court to "torture" the meaning of the statute to avoid disclosure. Justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether virtually all documents could be deemed "personnel" records and thereby excluded from FOIA. Sotomayor quizzed the attorney as to whether "anything that the agency uses to craft its internal employee practices and rules gets swept up as private, as internal."

In sum, far from being the most transparent administration in history, the Obama team repeatedly has resorted to every argument, valid or not, to prevent production of documents and witnesses it would prefer to keep behind closed doors. Sometimes this verges on the ludicrous, as when the White House claimed executive privilege for the social secretary. But in other cases, the intent appears to have been to thwart investigation into serious matters that might embarrass the administration. That's not grounds, of course, for keeping documents under lock and key. Well, not unless you torture the meaning of the statute to thwart scrutiny.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 2, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Obama White House  
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Comments

The most transparent administration ever?
By Jennifer Rubin
That is how the Obama administration billed itself. The reality is quite different
=====================

...and then not a single word about the level of transparency relative to any other administration.

Do we really need yet another platform for right wing hackery?

Yawn.

Posted by: zukermand | December 2, 2010 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the Obama administration meant the most transparency of any administration this century. This is not an auspicious beginning if you choose to cast stones in only one direction as you could criticize the same standards of the previous administration.

Posted by: rolandssong | December 2, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

So you are in favor of releasing files related to national security? Just saving this for a future hysterical hypocritical rant about Wikileaks.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer

Is it possible you could post an email address??? The email form above does not work

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 2, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Those of you waiting for hyteria, hypocrisy, or ranting from this young lady are going to need to be resupplied once a month. That's a lonely outpost.

If you only knew she is leaving the sizzle off her jabs. Remember the post on civility? Don't make her step on her fuzzbox, boys; you'll be puking in the corners.

Someone less civil might over the past two-plus years (yes - don't forget all that scofflaw financing during the 2008 campaign) have quite reluctantly come to the conclusion that the law is far less sacred to some than others.

Even the wise Latinas are saying it these days.

Posted by: johnnyramone | December 2, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Look Guys,I could be wrong,but based on her history,JR will never respond to any of these comments. I don't know if she reads them;I doubt it. Originally,when she wrote for Commentary,readers commented on her opinions,she never responded,then Commentary decided that it would no longer accept Comments on Contentions. Her volume of Opinions stayed consistent. She has no interest in our Comments. Maybe her compensation is based on the # of responses she can generate,who knows,but,if so I won't be adding to her income.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 2, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

rcaruth

So you are trying to attack Jennifer and discourage her readers too ?

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 2, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I buy some of your arguments about transparency, but do you really think that the above example is even known to the President, let alone influenced by him? This wasn't exactly a high level case.

It's a peril of being President, all presidents, that your name gets attached to everything because journalists are often lazy in digging their stories and headline writers want to catch the eye, not inform.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 2, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Dear Rain Forest,
It's not an attack,I respect JR,but have no illusions about her objectives,which are not to have a conversation about her opinions,but to disseminate her opinions without discourse.
When Contentions stopped taking Comments,in my opinion,the readership for the Contentions Blog(Separate from Commentary)dropped by 90%,I'm sure that WAPO gives her a wider opportunity to be read. Also,I suspect that JPOD took advantage of her prolific opinionating without much compensation.
BTW,Obviously,I find JR fascinating.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 2, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

RFR:

Aren't you overdoing the obsequious thing? I'm guessing that Jennifer already has someone who mows her lawn and takes care of her dry cleaning.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 2, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

RFR:Aren't you overdoing the obsequious thing? I'm guessing that Jennifer already has someone who mows her lawn and takes care of her dry cleaning.

Snarky Snarky tsk tsk

Posted by: rcaruth | December 2, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

RFR:Aren't you overdoing the obsequious thing? I'm guessing that Jennifer already has someone who mows her lawn and takes care of her dry cleaning.

Snarky Snarky tsk tsk

Posted by: rcaruth | December 2, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Jen,

Judging by how mad you have made the whacked out liberals, you now know koolaid isn't transparent. The drink, therefore they cannot see.

Good writing. I enjoy reading a smart woman who isn't shrill.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | December 2, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

"Look Guys,I could be wrong,but based on her history,JR will never respond to any of these comments."

I did run across a comment she posted.

Posted by: fzdybel | December 2, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

JR has a long way to go to catch up with Glenn Greenwald.

Posted by: fzdybel | December 2, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin's is an apparently well meaning but weak take on the issue, the equivalent on the right to what some left leaning bloggers wrote during the Bush administration. For starters, she doesn't understand what the term transparency means in a governmental sense. No records professional within the government took Obama's statements to mean there would be wholesale changes in FOIA. (There can't be. FOIA is statutorily driven and depends on 40 years of case law.) What he meant was greater posting of post-decisional information on the web (the sort of thing you once had to go to an agency librarian and ask to see) and a reversion to the Reno standard rather than the Ashcroft standard in the *discretionary* areas of FOIA. As long as Rubin and her counterparts on the left approach the issues as they do, I think the government will continue to act as it does, regardless of whether a D or R follows the president's name. Trust is a two way street.

Posted by: Former_Archivist | December 4, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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