There’s a kerfluffle in the lefty blogosphere over whether the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and other groups dedicated to open government should rescind the Transparency Award they gave to President Obama earlier this year. A petition signed by 20 prominent whistleblowers accuses the Obama administration of “dramatically increased government secrecy.”
POGO executive director Danielle Brian, tried to explain why their awardee was conducting what the Hudson Institute’s conservative analyst Gabriel Schoenfeld described as “the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”
Being compared to Tricky Dick is usuall not a compliment in the open government crowd, so how does Brian square giving such an award to the Obama administration? Simple. She quotes Tom Blanton of the National Security Archives, who blames it on Bush:
“The main reason for the increase in leaks prosecutions is that cases developed under the Bush administration ‘ripened’ last year and this year, and the career prosecutors (abetted by one or two Obama appointees) dared the White House to intervene and risk the Nixon-era opprobrium for ‘political interference in prosecutions’. …The main reason for the increase in the reported cost of government secrecy is that the government has now developed better means to measure that cost. Not because Obama ordered more secrecy.”
Oh, the ripening thing. Thanks for clearing that up. (Serious question: If Obama is still president in 2016, will he still be blaming Bush for all of his own actions?)
Brian also wants open government people to stop carping, blogging, circulating petitions, and whining about what even she admits is a disturbing lack of transparency and persecution of whistleblowers:
“Come join us. Do something concrete to force government to open up. Don’t just carp and blog and petition. Petitions are not going to change the iron law of bureaucracy that all governments will default to secrecy to protect their turf, no matter what.”
Whatever that “something concrete” Brian has in mind, it’s a pretty sure bet that giving an undeserved transparency award to an increasingly secretive and punitive administration is not going to result in a more open government.