Despite his campaign promises (a trite phrase at this point), Obama has relentlessly tried to blanket the United States government in secrecy in order to both protect the abusive injustices it engages in from public scrutiny, as well as to ensure the continuance of such wrongdoing for as long as possible. After using the state secrets privilege to avoid judicial scrutiny in cases where innocent people were brutally tortured, as well as to avoid having to answer to anybody while targeting U.S. citizens for assassination, things seemed bad enough. Then came Obama’s war on whistleblowers, from the prosecution of Thomas Drake for leaking valuable public information about waste at the N.S.A., to journalist James Risen for exposing a reckless Iran policy at the CIA, to State Department consultant Steven Kim who simply uttered an opinion about North Korea’s response to U.S. sanctions, to Bradely Manning who has faced cruel treatment without charge for allegedly leaking to Wikileaks. More illustrations of Obama’s secrecy abound, but now here from Secrecy News, another:
[L]ast month the Department of Defense issued a proposed new rulethat appears to subvert the intent of the Obama policy [this one, that he never intended to uphold] by imposing new safeguard requirements on “prior designations indicating controlled access and dissemination (e.g., For Official Use Only, Sensitive But Unclassified, Limited Distribution, Proprietary, Originator Controlled, Law Enforcement Sensitive).”
By “grandfathering” those old, obsolete markings in a new regulation for defense contractors, the DoD rule would effectively reactivate them and qualify them for continued protection under the new Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) regime, thereby defeating the new policy.
Even more broadly, the proposed rule says that any unclassified information that has not been specifically approved for public release must be safeguarded. It establishes secrecy, not openness, as the presumptive status and default mode for most unclassified information.
“Unclassified Government information shall not be posted on websites that are publicly available or have access limited only by domain/Internet Protocol restriction,” the proposed rule baldly states at one point.
The breathtaking implications of the DoD proposal have come as a shock not only to those who still believe in the possibility of open government, but to the DoD contractors who are expected to implement the sweeping new policy. See “Contractors resist DoD’s tougher info rules” by Sean Reilly, Federal Times, July 10.
Meanwhile, many executive branch agencies have not met their obligations to post basic agency information on their web sites, such as staff directories, reports to Congress, and congressional testimony, according to a new survey from Openthegovernment.org.
Government that acts within the law can allow openness and transparency. Unrestrained outlaw government desperately needs to keep its behavior in the shadows in order to sustain itself. Obama’s attempt, not only to use state secrets to dismiss troublesome legal action against him and his government, but to classify vast arrays of government documents in order to keep the American people in as profound a state of ignorance about their own administering institutions, makes clear which kind of government is ours.