Georgia Voices: Obama could learn a lot from Madison about government transparency
by The Augusta Chronicle
March 31, 2014 08:44 PM | 1511 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Obama administration has never lived up to the president’s inauguration day pledge to be the “most transparent” in history.

Sadly, it’s getting worse.

An Associated Press analysis of federal data found that the administration has grown more secretive over time, last year censoring or outright denying Freedom of Information Act access to government files more than ever since Obama took office.

More than a third of requests, 36 percent, resulted in censored materials or outright denials.

The study also found the administration has cited more legal exceptions to justify withholding materials and has refused to turn over newsworthy files quickly, and most agencies took longer to answer records requests.

The report said the government blocked urgent access in several major news stories, including the Boston bombings, the National Security Agency’s phone-records collection, health care website woes and the Benghazi attacks.

The government cited “national security” to withhold records 8,496 times, a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama’s first year in office. Nearly all national security denials were related to requests from the NSA and the CIA, but the report showed that even agencies such as the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency and the Farm Service Agency cited the exception.

Matters of national security? At the Farm Service Agency?

Because of the very nature of their occupation, journalists are the most ardent advocates for governmental transparency. However, transparency should be a concern for everyone because it is essential to the American way of life. A nation whose citizens are uninformed is doomed to fail.

President James Madison, whose March 16 birthday helps mark Sunshine Week, once said: “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

The 44th president could learn a lesson in transparency from president No. 4.

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