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Transparency vs. reality
March 14, 2011 - Jim Smith
Very disappointing is the response the public should have to a report this week from the Associated Press of President Obama's administration taking action fewer requests for federal records last year, even though more people sought public information under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
President Obama came into office promising more transparency by government and then takes action of fewer requests by the media, businesses, private citizens and other groups. How is that transparency?
According to the AP report, there were 544,360 requests made last year of the federal government under the FOIA, which is an increase of 41,000 requests. But, the government responded to 12,400 fewer requests.
According to the AP: "Overall, the decidedly mixed performance shows the federal government struggling to match the promises Obama made early in his term to improve transparency and disclose more information rapidly. 'Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing,' Obama said when he took office.
"The White House said it was voluntarily disclosing more information, forestalling a need to formally make requests under the law, and said that agencies released information in nearly 93 percent of cases, excluding instances when it couldn't find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper."
Granted, there undoubtedly are materials that need to be kept secret for national security reasons, but I would bet most of the denials for requested documents don't fall under that classification.
My bet is the documents are denied because their release might make someone look "bad" in the public eye, point out inconsistencies between fact and government rhetoric and/or a government worker believes it's his/her job to be the gatekeeper instead of the conduit for public information.
When it comes to government, transparency is merely a word -- not a reality!
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