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Obama’s Unprecedented Level Of Unaccountability

- October 10, 2013

President Obama: "My Administration Is Committed To Creating An Unprecedented Level Of Openness In Government." (President Barack Obama, "Memorandum For The Heads Of Executive Departments And Agencies: Transparency and Open Government," Press Release, 1/21/09)

  • President Obama: "The Way To Make Government Responsible Is To Hold It Accountable. And The Way To Make Government Accountable Is Make It Transparent…" OBAMA: "But the way to make a government responsible is not simply to enlist the services of responsible men and women, or to sign laws that ensure that they never stray. The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they're being made, and whether their interests are being well served." (President Barack Obama, "Remarks By The President In Welcoming Senior Staff And Cabinet Secretaries To The White House," Washington, DC, 1/21/09)

A NEW REPORT PLACES THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AMONG THE LEAST TRANSPARENT

Committee To Protect Journalists Report: "U.S. President Barack Obama Came Into Office Pledging Open Government, But He Has Fallen Short Of His Promise." "U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging open government, but he has fallen short of his promise. Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press. Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government sources from speaking to journalists." (Leonard Downie Jr. and Sara Rafsky, "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

Under Obama, Government Officials Are Afraid To Talk To The Press

"In The Obama Administration's Washington, Government Officials Are Increasingly Afraid To Talk To The Press." "In the Obama administration's Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press. Those suspected of discussing with reporters anything that the government has classified as secret are subject to investigation, including lie-detector tests and scrutiny of their telephone and e-mail records. An 'Insider Threat Program' being implemented in every government department requires all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

The New York Times Reporter Scott Shane: The Obama Administration's Leak Prosecutions Are Having A "Deterrent Effect." "'I think we have a real problem,' said New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane. 'Most people are deterred by those leaks prosecutions. They're scared to death. There's a gray zone between classified and unclassified information, and most sources were in that gray zone. Sources are now afraid to enter that gray zone. It's having a deterrent effect. If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

  • Shane: "Obama Had Said That The Default Should Be Disclosure…The Culture They've Created Is Not One That Favors Disclosure." "President Obama had said that default should be disclosure,' Times reporter Shane told me. 'The culture they've created is not one that favors disclosure.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

Since Obama Took Office, 6 Government Employees And 2 Contractors Have Faced Criminal Prosecutions Under The Espionage Act, "Compared With A Total Of Three Such Prosecutions In All Previous U.S. Administrations." "Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press-compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

Recent Revelations About The Government's Extensive Surveillance Of Americans' Telephone And Email Traffic Has Further Unnerved Officials Such That They Are Hesitant To Discuss Even Unclassified Information With Journalists. "Compounding the concerns of journalists and the government officials they contact, news stories based on classified documents obtained from Snowden have revealed extensive surveillance of Americans' telephone and e-mail traffic by the National Security Agency. Numerous Washington-based journalists told me that officials are reluctant to discuss even unclassified information with them because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

  • National Security Journalist Jeffrey Smith: "I Worry Now About Calling Somebody Because The Contact Can Be Found Out Through A Check Of Phone Records Or E-Mails." "'I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,' said veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity, an influential nonprofit government accountability news organization in Washington."(Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

The Washington Post Reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran: The Obama Administration Has Created A "Chilling Effect Across Government" That "Serves To Shield And Obscure The Business Of Government From Necessary Accountability." "Washington Post national security reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a member of CPJ's board of directors, told me that 'one of the most pernicious effects is the chilling effect created across government on matters that are less sensitive but certainly in the public interest as a check on government and elected officials. It serves to shield and obscure the business of government from necessary accountability.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

Former CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno: The Obama Administration Is "Squeezing The Flow Of Information At Several Pressure Points." "Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who is now director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said he thought the combined efforts of the administration were 'squeezing the flow of information at several pressure points.' He cited investigations of 'leakers and journalists doing business with them' and limitations on "everyday access necessary for the administration to explain itself and be held accountable.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

The Obama Administration's Effort To Control The Message Has Decimated Media Access

"'This Is The Most Closed, Control Freak Administration I've Ever Covered,' Said David E. Sanger, Veteran Chief Washington Correspondent Of The New York Times." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

Obama's Launch Of Government Transparency Websites Was "Part Of Strategy" Crafted During His Presidential Campaign, To Offer The Public "Large Amounts Of Favorable Information And Images Generated By His Administration, While Limiting Its Exposure To Probing By The Press." "Obama, who during the 2008 campaign had criticized the 'excessive secrecy' of the Bush administration, came into the Oval Office promising an unprecedentedly open government. By the end of his first full day there on January 21, 2009, he had issued directives to government agencies to speed up their responses to Freedom of Information Act requests and to establish 'Open Government Initiative' websites with information about their activities and the data they collect. The government websites turned out to be part of a strategy, honed during Obama's presidential campaign, to use the Internet to dispense to the public large amounts of favorable information and images generated by his administration, while limiting its exposure to probing by the press." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

  • Financial Times' Richard McGregor Who Began Covering The White House Several Years Ago After Leaving A Post In China: "Covering This White House Is Pretty Miserable In Terms Of Getting Anything Of Substance To Report On." "Financial Times correspondent Richard McGregor told me that, after coming to Washington several years ago from a posting in China, he was surprised to find that 'covering this White House is pretty miserable in terms of getting anything of substance to report on in what should be a much more open system. If the U.S. starts backsliding, it is not only a bad example for more closed states, but also for other democracies that have been influenced by the U.S.' to make their governments more transparent.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)
     
  • Former CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno: The Obama Administration Uses Social Media To "End Run News Media Completely." "The Obama administration is using social media 'to end run the news media completely,' Sesno at George Washington University told me." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

The Associated Press Senior Managing Editor Michael Oreskes: "'Sources Are More Jittery And More Standoffish, Not Just In National Security Reporting. A Lot Of Skittishness Is At The More Routine Level. The Obama Administration Has Been Extremely Controlling And Extremely Resistant To Journalistic Intervention. There's A Mind-Set And Approach That Holds Journalists At A Greater Distance.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press,"Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

  • Politico 's Josh Gerstein: If A Story Is Something The Obama Administration Doesn't Want To Come Out "They Won't Even Give You The Basic Facts." "'The Obama people will spend an hour with you, off the record, arguing about the premise of the story,' said Josh Gerstein, who covers the White House and its information policies for Politico. 'If the story is basically one that they don't want to come out, they won't even give you the basic facts.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

The Obama Administration's Level Of Information Control Is Unprecedented

The Washington Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli: Despite Its Reputation, The Bush Administration "Was Much More Accepting Of The Role Of Journalism In National Security" Than The Obama Administration. "The Bush White House and Vice President Dick Cheney did not hesitate to take issue with an increasingly adversarial press publicly and privately, especially as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-and the Bush administration itself-became more unpopular. But journalists and news executives, including myself, were still able to engage knowledgeable officials at the highest levels of the administration in productive dialogue, including discussions of sensitive stories about classified national security activities. 'The Bush administration had a worse reputation,' Marcus Brauchli, my immediate successor as executive editor of The Washington Post, told me, 'but, in practice, it was much more accepting of the role of journalism in national security.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

  • Committee To Protect Journalists Report: 30 Experienced Washington Journalists Said The Obama Administration's Effort To Control Information And Prevent Leaks Is Unprecedented. "The administration's war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post's investigation of Watergate. The 30 experienced Washington journalists at a variety of news organizations whom I interviewed for this report could not remember any precedent."(Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

"And Not Just In National Security. Ellen Weiss, Washington Bureau Chief For E.W. Scripps Newspapers And Stations, Said 'The Obama Administration Is Far Worse Than The Bush Administration' In Trying To Thwart Accountability Reporting About Government Agencies." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press,"Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

  • "Among Several Examples She Cited, The Environmental Protection Agency 'Just Wouldn't Talk To Us' Or Release Records About Environmental Policy Review Panels 'Filled By People With Ties To Target Companies.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press,"Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

"'There Is No Access To The Daily Business In The Oval Office, Who The President Meets With, Who He Gets Advice From,' Said ABC News White House Correspondent Ann Compton, Who Has Been Covering Presidents Since Gerald Ford." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

  • Compton: Prior Administrations Would Often Give The Press Corps As Chance To Hear The President's Opening Remarks At The Beginning Of Meetings And Note Attendees As Well As Engage With Them Afterward. 'In the past,' Compton told me, 'we would often be called into the Roosevelt Room at the beginning of meetings to hear the president's opening remarks and see who's in the meeting, and then we could talk to some of them outside on the driveway afterward.'" (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)
  • Compton: "This President Has Wiped All That Coverage Off The Map. He's The Least Transparent Of The Seven Presidents I've Covered In Terms Of How He Does His Daily Business." (Leonard Downie Jr., "The Obama Administration And The Press," Committee To Protect Journalists, 10/10/13)

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