WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration set a record for the number of times its federal employees told disappointed citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn’t find a single page requested under the Freedom of Information Act, according to a new Associated Press analysis of government data.
In more than one in six cases, or 129,825 times, government searchers said they came up empty-handed last year.Such cases contributed to an alarming measurement: People who asked for records under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, also a record. In the first full year after President Barack Obama’s election, that figure was only 65 percent of cases.
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan recently had some choice words for the liberal Potemkin Village that is President Barack Obama.
What follows are some excerpts from her cutting Washington Post op-ed, published yesterday.
After early promises to be the most transparent administration in history, this has been one of the most secretive. And in certain ways, one of the most elusive. It’s also been one of the most punitive toward whistleblowers and leakers who want to bring light to wrongdoing they have observed from inside powerful institutions…
On Monday, during a visit to Vietnam, the president spent some quality time with the media — in the form of Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef. A couple of years ago, he did a heavily publicized interview with the comedian Zach Galifianakis on the faux talk show “Between Two Ferns,” and last year he made a visit to podcaster Marc Maron’s garage for a chat about fatherhood and overcoming fear.
But his on-the-record interviews with hard-news, government reporters have been relatively rare — and, rather than being wide-ranging, often limited to a single subject, such as the economy.
Remarkably, Post news reporters haven’t been able to interview the president since late 2009. Think about that. The Post is, after all, perhaps the leading news outlet on national government and politics, with no in-depth, on-the-record access to the president of the United States for almost all of his two terms.
I couldn’t get anyone in the White House press office to address this, despite repeated attempts by phone and email — which possibly proves my point.
But a thorough study from Martha Joynt Kumar, a retired Towson University professor, describes the administration’s strategy. The president does plenty of interviews, she writes — far more than any other president in recent history. But these interviews are tightly controlled and targeted toward specific topics, and, it seems to me, often granted to soft questioners. (All of this is a major shift from a time when news conferences and short question-and-answer sessions allowed reporters to pursue news topics aggressively and in real time.)
There’s a more colloquial word for the above technique: propaganda.
More interviews, less accountability. Feet kept safe from the fire.
Meanwhile, on media rights generally, the Obama administration hasn’t walked its talk. It has set new records for stonewalling or rejecting Freedom of Information requests. And it has used an obscure federal act to prosecute leakers. It continued the punishing treatment of a National Security Agency whistleblower, Thomas Drake (dismaying new details have emerged recently in book excerpts by John Crane, a former Pentagon investigator), and threatened to send the New York Times investigative reporter James Risen to jail for his good-faith insistence on protecting his confidential source.
Incredible how quickly “Yes We Can” turned into…