American Elephants

The Most Transparent Administration in History?? by The Elephant's Child

obama-us-iraqjpeg-05349-550x367In a famous remark a couple of years ago, President Obama boasted that “this is the most transparent administration in history.”

“A bipartisan consensus has long held that a healthy democracy requires a significant measure of government transparency.” Since 1950 the Federal Records Act has required the government to preserve documents about its decisions.

Since the 1960s the government has been subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) which gives citizens the right to see those records. In 2009, the National Archives issued rules requiring federal agencies to preserve employee work on non official accounts in a government record-keeping system.

The Obama Administration has long talked “transparency” but tried to hide everything from this legal regime. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State conducted most of her correspondence on a private, homemade email system that she failed to disclose, kept away from the federal government, and when the system was exposed — Mrs. Clinton declared that she would be the arbiter of what she would allow the American people or Congress to see. Her aide Huma Abedin also had an account on that system, but Mrs. Abedin has not yet bothered to deliver her government records to State.

In August, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed a FOIA request to gain access to the private email account of White House science czar John Holdren, who may have used a private account for government work.

CEI exposed former EPA Director Lisa Jackson for using a secret alias “Richard Windsor” when emailing on the EPA system, which was apparently designed to thwart any FOIA requests for her conversations since “Lisa Jackson” didn’t appear on her emails.

Lois Lerner’s emails from the IRS have been subpoenaed for two years,  without success and with extensive lies and obfuscations. Now it turns out she had a second private email account to conduct government work under the name “Toby Miles” and the IRS still cannot account for its contents.

It is becoming apparent that the practice is rampant among Administration officials, including the Secretaries of Agriculture, Labor and HHS. All have secret government email accounts that neither Congress nor the public are aware of in defiance of federal law.

Last week a federal court subpoenaed former EPA official Phillip North after a complaint by a mining concern called the Pebble Partnership. Mr. North worked from inside the EPA with outside activists to scuttle Pebble’s proposed Alaskan mining project, and he did so on private email.

The Lerner and North cases also highlight the Administration’s sloppy, or willfully obstructionist, approach to recordkeeping. Recall the crash of Ms. Lerner’s hard drive, and the IRS’s claim for months it had no backup of her work. Treasury’s Inspector General would later find some. Mr. North’s hard drive also crashed, and Pebble claims that key North emails and documents have gone missing from EPA’s official record.

The people are justified in believing that this Administration’s evasion of disclosing information is not an accident. The public has a right to ask just what is being done in their name. President Obama believes in government by executive order — the latest example is changing the designation of what is clearly a Treaty to a mere executive order.  The Washington Post recently noted that the White House seeks to misdirect.

Obama issued only 20 executive orders in 2013 (the lowest single-year total in more than a century. But that year he issued 41 presidential memoranda, along with nine additional presidential “determinations.” And there are more avenues: regulatory action, signing statements, legal interpretations and administrative orders technically issued by department heads, but at the behest of the White House.

Then there are other ways of making the presidential preferences known, and the Washington Post lists them.  And lists some of the worst abuses cited by those who feel that the president has abused his executive authority.  It would be interesting to see just how many FOIA requests are hanging around waiting for a reply. Then there are all those computers that ‘unexpectedly’ crashed, lost everything, bad computers sent to the dump, and of course “wiped.” There’s a real reason why Hillary is in so much trouble.

Repeating Jonah Goldberg’s aphorism:

“The people are the boss, the government is the servant. The Constitution is the government’s job description. The Declaration of Independence is its mission statement. Campaigns are the job interview, elections are the hiring and firing process.”

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