So much for transparency

During his inauguration speech, President Obama vowed that his administration would be the most open and transparent in history.  As an advocate of transparent government, I was relieved to hear it.  Unfortunately President Obama is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle on that one.

You see, reporters have asked for the photograph of Osama bin Laden, taken after the operation that resulted in his head.  Under the Freedom of Information Act, they have to release anything that’s not a threat to national security or related to personnel issues.  While it is entirely possible that the DOD has classified the bin Laden pictures, it makes no sense as we all know they’re out there and what they’re a photograph of.  This is a picture of a dead guy, not the blueprints to the F-117.  The argument that it will anger muslims doesn’t really hold water either.  The killing is what angers them, the photograph is a different matter entirely.

If this were an isolated incident, we could take this as simply being a disagreement.  It’s not.  Courtesy of Reason’s Hit&Run blog:

This wouldn’t be the first time a senior administration official had interefered in the FOIA process. The House Oversight Committee investigated the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year after a whistleblower revealed that Secretary Janet Napolitano’s inner circle was vetting FOIA requests. Among the revelations: A former Obama campaign worker (and a number of other political hires) had been tasked with reviewing information requests from conservative groups.

If that was bad, the behavior of the DHS legal team was even worse. After a hearing, one DHS lawyer physically grabbed evidence obtained by the oversight committee and shoved it in his bag, telling the committee:

As counsel for DHS, I object to counsel for the committee’s refusal to allow exhibits they had shown to the witness and that all are e-mail messages from DHS personnel to DHS personnel on their official DHS-issued accounts and use of e-mail services. These are not committee records, these are, rather, DHS records; and so there is no reason the committee should be able to prevent us from taking them, since they have shown them to the witness and used them in this interview.

I mean, I guess I would note also for the record that because the committee – because the records have no origination nor creation or editing by the committee, other than redactions, it seems to me the committee has no reason to be able to exercise any control over those documents, and that they retain the nature of being DHS documents.

The DoD seems to be playing a similar game. Regardless of whether it’s verifiably true that the OBL photo(s) pose a threat to national security, it’s Obama’s preference that the pictures remain unseen by the general public.

Indeed it is.

Government functions best when it’s an open government.  It’s far to easy to be a tyrant behind closed doors when you know no one will every know about it.  That’s the reason we have things like the Freedom of Information Act.  The President’s insistence on acting like it should apply to everyone except himself is unacceptable.  Presidents can not be above the law.  Of course, the laws apparently don’t apply to Obama.  He’s special.

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