President Obama claims to be running “the most transparent administration in history.” But even those who knew he was exaggerating must have been surprised when dozens of his own inspectors general revealed what a laughably hollow claim this is.
Earlier this month, 47 of the federal government’s 73 watchdogs filed a formal complaint about the “serious limitations” the Obama administration places on their ability to uncover waste, fraud and abuse.
It’s an unprecedented charge. “I’ve never seen a letter like this,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said. “And my folks have checked. There has never been a letter even with a dozen IGs complaining.”
IGs from the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice -- among many others -- say the administration is imposing such “serious limitations on access to records” that it’s creating “potentially serious challenges to the authority of every Inspector General and our ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.”
Time after time, the IGs request information necessary for them to do their jobs. And time after time, they’re told the information is “privileged” and therefore can be legally shielded, even though prior administrations haven’t made such dubious claims.
Yes, this can be a legitimate claim in certain, very limited instances. Information that could jeopardize certain matters of national security, for example, is naturally very sensitive and must be handled carefully.
But when you’re concealing more information than you’re revealing, and doing so almost routinely, something is seriously wrong.
Take how the Peace Corps refused to provide records of reported sexual assaults to assist an investigation into how the agency handled such cases. And the difficulty the EPA’s inspector general had obtaining documents from the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. And many other cases that haven’t become public yet.
The IGs aren’t the only ones disturbed by the stonewalling attitude of “the most transparent administration in history.” In July, representatives of 38 journalism organizations sent a letter to President Obama, complaining about a lack of government openness.
The lead signer was David Cuillier, president of the Society of Professional Journalists. The letter accused the administration of “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies.”
The administration is always quick to dismiss any focus on the IRS targeting conservatives, or the Benghazi attack, or the Justice Department investigating reporters, as “phony scandals.” They want us to believe they’re baseless distractions.