Obama administration secrecy policies improved over predecessor: report

[JURIST] The administration of US President Barack Obama [official website] has improved government transparency over the Bush administration, but there is more that should be done, according a report [text, PDF; press release, PDF] released Tuesday OpenTheGovernment.org [advocacy website], a coalition of public interest groups. The Secrecy Report Card 09 provides a non-quantitative overview of the first six months of the Obama administration, finding that while promises of openness have been encouraging, in practice there has been room for greater transparency in some instances, concluding that the "record to date is mixed." The report also found that the Bush administration improved secrecy policies during its final year:


The final year of the Bush-Cheney Administration saw slight decreases in secrecy in a number of areas in the executive branch. The record is not clear that there was a concomitant increase in openness. Signs of progress exist in some areas toward more openness, the results of continued determination on the part of the public and its representatives. Congress continues working to identify ways to rein in the use and abuse of categories, such as "Sensitive But Unclassified," and has also taken steps to counter the tendencies of agencies and departments in areas such as over-classification.

The report examined indicators such as national security letter requests, assertions of the "state secrets" privilege, assertions of executive privilege, and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [JURIST news archive] requests.

On Friday, the White House announced that for the first time in history it will disclose the names of all White House visitors [press release]. The Obama administration recently released a highly anticipated CIA interrogation report along with other documents but then refused to release [JURIST reports] further detainee treatment documents in response to a FOIA request from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. In February, the Obama administration reasserted the state secrets privilege [JURIST report] in a lawsuit over CIA rendition flights, drawing criticism from advocacy groups including the ACLU. The Department of Justice is currently seeking an en banc rehearing of the case, in which the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST reports] that the state secrets privilege does not bar a lawsuit against a company that allegedly provided logistical support for the flights.


 

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