Obama’s secrecy fixation

Glenn Greenwald writes: When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, his pledges of openness and transparency were not ancillary to his campaign but central to it. He repeatedly denounced the Bush administration as “one of the most secretive administrations in our nation’s history”, saying that “it is no coincidence” that such a secrecy-obsessed presidency “has favored special interests and pursued policies that could not stand up to the sunlight.” He vowed: “as president, I’m going to change that.” In a widely heralded 2007 speech on transparency, he actually claimed that this value shaped his life purpose:

“The American people want to trust in our government again – we just need a government that will trust in us. And making government accountable to the people isn’t just a cause of this campaign – it’s been a cause of my life for two decades.”

His campaign specifically vowed to protect whistleblowers, hailing them as “the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government” and saying that “such acts of courage and patriotism. . . should be encouraged rather than stifled.” Transparency groups were completely mesmerized by these ringing commitments. “We have a president-elect that really gets it,” gushed Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, in late 2008; “the openness community will expect a complete repudiation of the Ashcroft doctrine.” Here’s just one of countless representative examples of Obama bashing Bush for excessive secrecy – including in the realm of national security and intelligence – and vowing a fundamentally different course:

Literally moments after he was inaugurated, the White House declared that “President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history”. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “Obama’s secrecy fixation

  1. Norman

    I believe he was speaking of the 1% of Americans, not the other 99% when he made his statement about wanting to trust in their government. At least that’s the way history has shown up so far.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    No Checks, No Balances.

    Is it even possible to rein in an out-of-control president in the American system? Under other systems, the leader has to rely upon his political allies and followers for his power, and they can overrule him when his self-vision becomes as clouded as Obama’s is. Witness the British Tories when they dismissed Maggy Thatcher for going to extremes halfway through a mandate. Clearly in that case the mandate was the government’s, not the leader’s.
    Giving the mandate to the president is clearly the Achilles heel of the American system.

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