Critical Read

Obama fails transparency promises

President Obama in the Oval Office (White House Photo)

President Obama has not lived up to his promises of transparency, report alleges. (White House photo)

What: A report authored by the Committee to Protect Journalists titled "The Obama Administration and the Press," published Oct. 10.

Why: The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, and its work provides snapshots of press obstructions worldwide. While it typically focuses on press freedom violations abroad, the organization set its eyes on press freedom within the U.S. for the first time in 2013, interviewing dozens of transparency advocates and journalists who cover politics and national security. The report also focuses on the implications of Obama administration policies for federal employees and contractors who share sensitive information with the press.

President Barack Obama pledged an open, transparent government upon taking office, but the report suggests he has fallen woefully short on this promise, with several journalists claiming his administration is the least transparent and most aggressive with the press since President Richard Nixon. According to the report, the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and uses its own media, often channeling the president's social media accounts, to release information and evade the press.

The report also highlights the administration's aggressive stance against journalists, government employees and contractors who divulge secrets to the media. The White House has pursued felony criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act for six federal employees and two government contractors, including former National Security Agency administrator Edward Snowden, more than double the number of such prosecutions under all prior administrations. In summary, the report alleges, government sources of information who help journalists paint objective pictures of myriad issues for the public are deterred from divulging any information and sometimes even from associating with members of the press.

Verbatim:
"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."

Download: Report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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