At an awards ceremony, Obama praises journalists. Back in the White House, he blocks honest press queries with all his power.
Jack Shafer writes: The last person in the world who should be lecturing journalists on how to do journalism is President Barack Obama. Yet there Obama was Monday night at a journalism award ceremony, yodeling banalities about the role of a press in a free society, moaning over the dangers posed by “he said/she said” reporting, and—to the delight of the assembled audience—attacking Donald Trump in every way but name.
“The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.”
— Leonard Downie Jr. in a Committee to Protect Journalists report
The press-heavy crowd, convened by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications to give the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting to Alec MacGillis, clapped at Obama’s 30-minute address, encouraging his best Trump-baiting lines about “free media” and the dangers of “false equivalence.”
At the awards dinner for Syracuse’s Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, President Barack Obama lectured the media and their responsibilities toward an informed electorate.
What they should have done is bombard Obama with rotten fruit or ripped him with raspberries for his hypocrisy.
“Shame on Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for allowing Obama—a documented opponent of the press—to pontificate on journalistic practice.”
How do we hate Obama’s treatment of the press? Let me count the ways. Under his administration, the U.S. government has set a new record for withholding Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a recent Associated Press investigation.
FOIA gives the public and press an irreplaceable view into the workings of the executive branch. Without timely release of government documents and data, vital questions can’t be answered and stories can’t be written.
“The only press award he has any business awarding is a special commendation to Trump, thanking him for making Obama look like a free-speech radical by comparison.”
Obama’s “Insider Threat Program” has turned employees across the government—from the Peace Corps to the Social Security Administration to the Department of Agriculture—into information-squelching snitches. If this isn’t Trumpian behavior, I don’t know what is.
“What makes Obama’s speech so unstomachable is the way he praises reporters at an award ceremony by calling their work ‘indispensable,’ ‘incredible,’ ‘worth honoring’ and essential to democracy while simultaneously blocking honest press queries with all the formidable energies of his office.”
“Obama hates the press,” New York Times national security reporter James Risen said not long ago, “and he hates leaks.” AP Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee has decried the “day-to-day intimidation of sources” by the Obama administration, judging it worse than the Bush administration on that score. And in a 2013 piece, POLITICO’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen documented Obama’s mastery of “limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.”
As ProPublica has reported, at the same time the Obama administration has been paying lip service to protecting whistleblowers, it has pursued national security leaks to the press with a vehemence unmatched by any previous administration, using the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who leak to journalists more times than all previous administrations combined. Read the rest of this entry »
Judicial Watch: Obama Asserts Fast and Furious Executive Privilege Claim for Holder’s Wife
Judicial Watch announced today that it received from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) a “Vaughn index” detailing records about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. The index was forced out of the Obama administration thanks to JW’s June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent September 2012 FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510)). A federal court had ordered the production over the objections of the Obama Justice Department.
“This is the first time that the Obama administration has provided a detailed listing of all records being withheld from Congress and the American people about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal.”
[Check out John’s Fund’s book, authored with Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky: “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department“]
The document details the Attorney General Holder’s personal involvement in managing the Justice Department’s strategy on media and Congressional investigations into the Fast and Furious scandal.
Notably, the document discloses that emails between Attorney General Holder and his wife Sharon Malone – as well as his mother – are being withheld under an extraordinary claim of executive privilege as well as a dubious claim of deliberative process privilege under the Freedom of Information Act. The “First Lady of the Justice Department” is a physician and not a government employee.
“The 1307-page ‘draft’ Vaughn index was emailed to Judicial Watch at 8:34 p.m. last night, a few hours before a federal court-ordered deadline. In its cover letter, the Department of Justice asserts that all of the responsive records described in the index are ‘subject to the assertion of executive privilege’.”
This is the first time that the Obama administration has provided a detailed listing of all records being withheld from Congress and the American people about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal. The 1307-page “draft” Vaughn index was emailed to Judicial Watch at 8:34 p.m. last night, a few hours before a federal court-ordered deadline. In its cover letter, the Department of Justice asserts that all of the responsive records described in the index are “subject to the assertion of executive privilege.”
“A week before the contempt finding, to protect Holder from criminal prosecution and stave off the contempt vote, President Obama asserted executive privilege over the Fast and Furious records the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed eight months earlier.”
The Vaughn index explains 15,662 documents. Typically, a Vaughn index must: (1) identify each record withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption. Read the rest of this entry »
Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee offered eight ways that the Obama administration is “blocking information” at a recent joint meeting of news editors.
1) As the United States ramps up its fight against Islamic militants, the public can’t see any of it. News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off — there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from.
2) The White House once fought to get cameramen, photographers and reporters into meetings the president had with foreign leaders overseas. That access has become much rarer. Think about the message that sends other nations about how the world’s leading democracy deals with the media: Keep them out and let them use handout photos.
3) Guantanamo: The big important 9/11 trial is finally coming up. But we aren’t allowed to see most court filings in real time — even of nonclassified material. So at hearings, we can’t follow what’s happening. We don’t know what prosecutors are asking for, or what defense attorneys are arguing.
4) Information about Guantanamo that was routinely released under President George W. Bush is now kept secret. The military won’t release the number of prisoners on hunger strike or the number of assaults on guards. Photo and video coverage is virtually nonexistent.
5) Day-to-day intimidation of sources is chilling. AP’s transportation reporter’s sources say that if they are caught talking to her, they will be fired. Even if they just give her facts, about safety, for example. Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad.
Buzbee also criticized the current administration for making Freedom of Information Act requests “slow and expensive.” Journalists are then forced to sue the government to force officials to respond, she said. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom Fitton discussing the new revelation
Via Judicial Watch:
Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. The DOJ attorneys also acknowledged that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is investigating this back-up system.
We obviously disagree that disclosing the emails as required would be onerous, and plan to raise this new development with Judge Sullivan.
This is a jaw-dropping revelation…(read more)
Here is the second set of sworn declarations by IRS officials in response to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s investigation into the missing emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials. The declarations were provided after close of business on Friday, August 22. Read the rest of this entry »
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) August 12, 2014
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.
— CIA (@CIA) June 6, 2014
For Breitbart.com, Charlie Spiering writes: On Tax Day, the Republican National Committee announced it is suing the IRS for stonewalling Freedom of Information Act request for documents about the tax agency’s politicized scrutiny of conservative and Tea Party groups.
The RNC filed the request on May 21, 2013, in an attempt to expose the documents and emails surrounding agency’s process in handling applications of non-profit organizations such as conservative and Tea Party groups.
“We’re filing this suit because the Obama administration has a responsibility to be transparent and accountable to the American people. The IRS has a legal obligation to answer our inquiry for these records.”
After the RNC filed the request, the IRS has requested several extensions, which has already delayed the release by 226 business days.
Our government is always hiding something
For USA Today, Betty Medsger writes: The Obama administration has used the Freedom of Information Act to increase rather than decrease government secrecy. In 2013, it increased use of exemptions to bar release of requested files by 22% over the previous year, according an analysis by the Associated Press. The government fully denied or redacted large portions of files in 36% of the 704,394 requests submitted
There also was a substantial increase in citing national security concerns as reason for withholding information. The administration did so 8,496 times in 2013 – more than double the rate in President Obama’s first year in office. The National Security Agency censored records or denied FOIA requests 98% of the time in 2013.
This growing disregard for openness is especially disappointing from a president who, on his first full day in office, announced he would have the most transparent administration in history. It is evident not only in the administration’s handling of FOIA requests, but also in the recent CIA dispute with the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee over the committee’s report on the government’s use of torture in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the scope and nature of mass surveillance by the NSA, known because of files made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The need to reverse this trend is evident in the critical role the FOIA has played in revealing secrets that, once public, led to major reforms. The revelation of COINTELPRO, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s secret illegal operations, is an example of the fundamental importance of the FOIA.
Breitbart.com EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Boyle reports: President Barack Obama has spent more time traveling abroad than other U.S. president in history at this point in their presidencies, according to a forthcoming study from the National Taxpayer Union Foundation (NTUF) provided exclusively to Breitbart News ahead of its public release.
“The most internationally well-traveled President, through five years, is also flying the most expensive-to-operate Air Force One to date.”
NTUF wrote. After five years in the White House, Obama has taken 31 trips for a total of 119 days abroad. At that point in George W. Bush’s presidency, Bush had taken 28 trips for 116 days, while Bill Clinton had taken 27 trips for 113 days. Ronald Reagan, after five years, had taken 14 trips for 73 days while Richard Nixon had taken 12 trips for 60 days after five years in the White House and Lyndon Johnson took 10 trips for 34 days at the half-decade mark. Dwight Eisenhower took 8 trips for 31 days after five years in the White House.
Citing a recent report in the Washington Examiner that found through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that taxpayers are on the hook for about $228,288 per Air Force One flight hour in 2013, a 27 percent increase from the previously confirmed cost of $179,750 per fight hour that NTUF used in its last study, the taxpayer watchdog concludes that Obama’s flights have cost taxpayers more than any other president.
Poisonous Government Snow
Georgia isn’t good at snow. Two inches fell in Atlanta last month and, amidst car crashes and television parodies, snow skepticism was born. Georgians bravely took to YouTube, determined to demonstrate that neither matches nor lighters nor blowtorches (a disproportionate number of Georgians seem to own blowtorches) could melt that strange, white stuff that the government insisted was just frozen water. On film, the snow blackens, twists like plastic, and stubbornly refuses to melt.
Although entire Web pages are dedicated to debunking the chemical snow theory, the simplest way to deal with snow skeptics is to put the stuff in a microwave or on the stove. Spoiler: It melts. The blackened snow was caused by soot from the lighter, because butane burns inefficiently, and as snow turns into slush under a blowtorch, it only appears not to melt. Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait explains how the snow is, in fact, slowly melting.
The entire episode, however, brings up a good question: Who was the first Georgian to decide to burn the snow, just to see what would happen?
Adam and Eve? Superintelligent Beings From Outer Space
Now that even Bill Nye has weighed in on the debate about creationism and evolution, some of us would welcome any sort of common ground between science and religion. The ancient alien theory may offer a solution: Adam and Eve were extraterrestrials who traveled to Earth aboard a space ark piloted by—you guessed it—Noah.
Multiple eyewitnesses and military documents have now confirmed Wednesday’s report that soldiers at a recent briefing on Fort Hood were told that Christians and Tea Partiers are dangerous extremists who are “tearing the nation apart,” and that donating to such groups now constitutes a military crime. Ft. Hood has denied the charges, but evidence continues to mount.
According to documents produced by a recent FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request from Judicial Watch, the military is now using a hysterically left-wing group of partisan fanatics known as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to train soldiers on “extremism.” The SPCL is on the record openly trashing and condemning mainstream Christian groups, Tea Parties and border security groups as “domestic hate groups.”
A month earlier, a security presentation portrayed the Founding Fathers as extremists. Before that, Breitbart News reported on a Christian chaplain who was officially censored by military commanders for talking about the importance of religious faith. And several months before that, Lt. Col. Jack Rich at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, instructed soldiers that traditional Christian beliefs are incompatible with ‘Army values.’
Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier seems to think that gun-control laws don’t apply to the liberal elite. The police chief helped Sen. Dianne Feinstein acquire “assault weapons,” which are illegal to possess in the District, for a news conference early this year to promote a ban on these firearms, then tried to cover up the police involvement.
Environmental Protection Agency officials have from the beginning of President Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office “pursued a path of obfuscation, operating in the shadows, and out of the sunlight,” according to a Senate report. Read the rest of this entry »
President Obama and his successors in the Oval Office are not obligated to make public the names of individuals visitingthe White House, according to a decision of the federal Circuit Court for the District of Columbia made public Friday.
The case was brought by Judicial Watch, the government watchdog nonprofit that has been fighting a long legal battle seeking to force release of the White House visitor logs as public records under the Freedom of Information Act.
But in a decision that is drawing intense criticism from across the ideological spectrum, the circuit court said the president has a “constitutional perogative” not to tell the American people who he or his staff meets with in the White House.
MARY KATHARINE HAM brings this:
1) The EPA gave an ethics award to fake employee, “Richard Windsor,” who was already just an unethically created e-mail alias for the agency’s former head, Lisa P. Jackson.
HotAir’s covered this story several times, but it really escalated to a point I don’t think I would have even concocted for a fictional account of government stupidity for fear it might feel like a reach. But government stupidity, undaunted by such a challenge and unbound by the limits of my imagination indeed awarded the “scholar of ethical behavior” award, among other professional recognitions, to a dude who does not exist and was created merely to unethically circumvent FOIA requests.
As the result of the persistence of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in pursuing their Freedom of Information Act requests, we found out late last year that Jackson had been using an epa.gov email account under the name of “Richard Windsor,” and that in practice it looked an awful lot like a deliberate attempt by Jackson to fly beneath the transparency radar when communicating about costly and publicly controversial EPA ideas and initiatives. Even better, it now looks like the EPA awarded the non-existent Richard Windsor with several of the oh-so-august bureaucracy’s required workplace certifications
As Erika wrote, this is real life.
2) The EPA makes conservatives pay a fortune for FOIAs to be granted while waiving fees for liberal groups.
Specifically, CEI asserts that the EPA is waiving FOIA fees for what it describes as left-wing groups – like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and EarthJustice – while it “systematically denies waivers for groups on the right,” according to CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner.
Horner said his research shows that from January 2012 to Spring 2013 the fees for “green” groups were waived in 75 out of 82 cases. Meanwhile, the EPA effectively or expressly denied his request for fee waivers in 14 of 15 FOIA instances over this same time period. Horner’s appeals of the EPA decisions to deny his fee waivers were rejected.
Further review, Horner said, established that “green” groups proved successful in getting their fees waived 92 percent of the time.
As Gabe notes, the EPA is kindly “considering” an investigation into this matter. Most transparent administration evah. More pressure, please, Congress!
3) EPA contractors are basically Gym, Tan, Laundrying in new, swanky rec rooms thanks to your tax money.
In a huge Environmental Protection Agency warehouse in Landover, enterprising workers made sure that they had all the comforts of home. They created personal rec rooms with televisions, radios, chairs and couches. On the walls were photos, calendars and pinups. For entertainment, they had books, magazines and videos. If they got hungry, they could grab something from a refrigerator and pop it into a microwave.
The crown jewel of their hideaway — which stored EPA office furnishings — was a 30-by-45-foot athletic center, cobbled together from “surplus” EPA gym equipment and decked out with a music system provided via “other agency inventory items,” according to a recently released inspector general’s report.
All of it was carefully hidden from security cameras by partitions and piles of boxes set up by the workers, employees of Apex Logistics, the contractor that ran the warehouse until the EPA severed ties after learning of the situation last month.
4) The EPA leaked confidential information on farmers and cattle facilities to environmental groups. No bigs.
According to a letter from a group of Senators to Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe, the EPA “released farm information for 80,000 livestock facilities in 30 states as the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from national environmental organizations. It is our understanding that the initial release of data contained personal information that was not required by the FOIA request for ten states including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio and Utah. This release included names and personal addresses.”
The Senators sent the letter Friday to express concern over the sensitivity of the data that was released to groups like Earth Justice, Pew Charitable Trust and Natural Resources Defense Council and to ask how the EPA plans to protect the data of farms and ranches that are also homes to families.
via Hot Air
If the news weren’t so saturated with scandals right now, the broadcast evening newscasts would have had a different segment each night this week on the EPA. As we were doing the podcast last night, Drew, Andy and I tried to recount them all and actually came up short on the first try. There’s just that many.
I’d really like to keep the EPA scandals in the spotlight because they run the gamut from basic bureaucratic waste, to malicious politically-motivated abuse, to direct malfeasance by the EPA’s highest appointee. Here they are:
(1) EPA awarded former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’salias, Richard Windsor, an ethics award.
Yes, a fake person — an alias created to avoid disclosure obligations and keep Lisa Jackson from having to read all the email in her actual email account — won an ethics award.
There’s two immediate take-aways to this scandal. First, it’s right at the top. None of the standard Obama Administration excuses — “it was a low-level employee; I was never informed” or “I do so many of these, I don’t even read them” — will work here. Jackson knew, she was complicit, and now she’s conveniently gone — the beneficiary of a cushy job at Apple just days after Democrats haled the company into hearings to browbeat it for obeying tax law.
Second, it demonstrates the empty “meritocracies” of the bureaucracy. Windsor’s name was on a list for completing a mandatory annual requirement, so of course “he” got an award.
Environmental Protection Agency officials are keeping mum today about a potential landmine of a lawsuit that claims senior executives there have used secret email accounts to conduct public business without being subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The suit was filed last week by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s senior fellow, Christopher C. Horner, Hans Bader, CEI’s counsel for special projects, and Sam Kazman, the conservative think tank’s general counsel.
In the suit, CEI asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to order EPA to produce “certain records pertaining to ‘secondary,’ non-public email accounts for EPA administrators, the existence of which accounts Plaintiff discovered in an Agency document obtained under a previous FOIA request.”
According to the CEI suit, the internal EPA memo, which was referenced in a Government Accountability Office report in 2008, described the secondary accounts as known only to “few EPA staff members, usually only high-level senior staff.”
Many such officials would be either presidential appointees or politically appointed members of the federal civil service system’s Senior Executive Service. The agency’s current boss, Administrator Lisa Jackson, was appointed by President Obama.
Federal law requires all government employees to use only official email accounts. If they do use a private account to do official business, however, they are required to make that available to their employing department or agency.
A spokesman for EPA declined to comment specifically on the CEI suit, offering only a statement on behalf of the agency: “EPA is strongly committed to transparency and strictly complies with open government laws such as the Freedom of Information Act. We will review this lawsuit closely and respond as appropriate.”
The think tank sued after filing three separate FOIA requests in May for documents related to the secret accounts. The agency has yet to produce any documents in response to the FOIAs…
More >> via WashingtonExaminer
- Obama Cabinet Flunks Disclosure Test With 19 in 20 Ignoring Law (bloomberg.com)
- The Liberal War on Transparency (educationviews.org)
- CEI Podcast For September 13, 2012: CEI Sues The EPA (openmarket.org)
On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama ordered federal officials to “usher in a new era of open government” and “act promptly” to make information public.
As Obama nears the end of his term, his administration hasn’t met those goals, failing to follow the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, according to an analysis of open-government requests filed by Bloomberg News.
Nineteen of 20 cabinet-level agencies disobeyed the law requiring the disclosure of public information: The cost of travel by top officials. In all, just eight of the 57 federal agencies met Bloomberg’s request for those documents within the 20-day window required by the Act…
“When it comes to implementation of Obama’s wonderful transparency policy goals, especially FOIA policy in particular, there has been far more ‘talk the talk’ rather than ‘walk the walk”‘
…The Bloomberg survey was designed in part to gauge the timeliness of responses, which Attorney General Eric Holder called “an essential component of transparency” in a March 2009 memo. About half of the 57 agencies eventually disclosed the out-of-town travel expenses generated by their top official by Sept. 14, most of them well past the legal deadline…
More >> via >> Bloomberg
- Obama Cabinet Flunks Disclosure Test With 19 in 20 Ignoring Law (conservativeread.com)
- Obama Cabinet Flunks Disclosure Test With 19 in 20 Ignoring Law (informationliberation.com)
- Ahhhh Transparency… (saneromeo.wordpress.com)
- Bloomberg Puts Obama Administration to the FOIA Test (theartofaccess.com)
- 19 Out of 20 Cabinet Agencies in the Most Transparent Administration In History Disregard Disclosure Law (reason.com)
- Obama Cabinet Flunks Disclosure Test With 19 in 20 Ignoring Law (tarpon.wordpress.com)