Open ... and shut


On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder told Justice Department employees that the Obama White House is well on its way to honoring its vow to be the most transparent administration in history.

But is it?

As part of Sunshine Week -- used by news organizations to promote open government -- The Associated Press conducted a review of federal agencies and the Freedom of Information Act one year into Mr. Obama's presidency.

The result was a not encouraging.

While the president and many agency chiefs have talked a good game about open government, word hasn't necessarily filtered down the ranks. Even as the number of Freedom of Information requests has declined, the current administration has pulled out the "get lost" stamp a record number of times.

The law includes a "deliberative process" exemption, designed to let agencies withhold information that describes behind-the-scenes decision making.

"Major agencies cited the exemption at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year," The AP found, "up from 47,395 times during President George W. Bush's final full budget year."

In addition, "The AP's review of annual Freedom of Information Act reports filed by 17 major agencies found that the administration's use of nearly every one of the law's nine exemptions to withhold information from the public increased during fiscal year 2009, which ended last October."

At a time when many Americans have lost faith in their public institutions, increased transparency is vital to helping restore that confidence. Despite its encouraging rhetoric, this administration has yet to walk the walk.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.