Friday, May 24, 2013

Making a Mockery of Open Government in America

Here's a quote from the Obama Administration as found on the White House website regarding the issue of government transparency and openness:

"Transparency and Open Government
Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
SUBJECT:      Transparency and Open Government
My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.
Government should be transparent.  Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public."
The memorandum, signed by President Barak Obama, was published in the Federal Register and expresses a wonderful sentiment.

Just in case that wan't enough for you, here is the President (among others) at the Open Government Partnership Event :

Unfortunately, reality transpired and this happened when the ACLU got curious about the use of warrantless government snooping on text messages sent by the sweaty, American voting masses:

This goes on for 15 pages so I didn't bother to bore you with screen captures of all fifteen identically and completely redacted pages.

As background, the ACLU observed that various FBI and U.S. Attorneys' Office documents suggested that the government is surveilling our emails and other electronic communications without the use of a warrant even though a federal appeals court ruling ruled that such actions were in violation of the Fourth Amendment which states the following:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

When the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice about the issue, the heavily redacted document above was the response that they apparently received.

And that's what passes for America's new open government?


  1. I think when history looks back on the Obama Administration, it was tell the public one thing and do the exact opposite.

    1. It's too bad that the lens of recent history will likely miss out on the whole idea that this was a voter problem. The republicans were laughed at because they're religious nuts and the left seized power. It's far to laugh at nuts, but there are nuts on both sides, and they're just as bad. The problem here is the left gained popular power through ridiculing the right, and turned the right into such a mockery that there was no balancing force.

      If you're a liberal, I'm not trying to say don't be a liberal. I'm trying to say that while you're laughing at some right-wing nut, do not forget that when you emasculate that party you leave no check or balance against your own wingnuts. You have to realize that there is validity to the conservative side of the political argument and maintain balance. It cuts both ways when the right is in power of course, but today it was the left that ran off in left field and didn't heed the conservative warnings about what Obama's big-government ideas would lead to...

    2. Yeah, it's all those lefty Liberals like the ACLU who are supporting authoritarian rule and government secrecy.

      That's the ticket! Yeah!

    3. Guess who joined the ACLU?

      In the suit, the coalition of 19 groups representing about 900,000 people demands that the federal government return and destroy any telephone communications information in its possession. It also wants a jury trial on the allegations contained in the suit.

      The plaintiffs fall across the political spectrum, including the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, the Council on American Islamic Relations Foundation, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and others.

      Plaintiff Gene Hoffman, chairman of The Calguns Foundation, which advocates against gun control laws, said members are nervous about calling hotlines to ask if they are inadvertently violating any rules or regulations.

      "It's a very serious concern that the sensitive conversation would be something the federal government or state government ... could access and realize what's going on," he said.

      Dale Gieringer, who directs the California chapter of NORML, said the group joined the suit because members working to reform marijuana laws also have concerns about privacy.

      "Because we are devoted to marijuana reform, many of our members have knowledge of activities that are illegal under federal law," Gieringer said.

      The lawsuit states the federal government has "indiscriminately obtained, and stored the telephone communications information of millions of ordinary Americans as part of the Associational Tracking Program."

      Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in New York asking the government to stop the phone tracking program. Several other civil libertarian organizations have also filed legal actions, hoping to increase the odds of victory by taking cases to federal judges in different jurisdictions.---Huff Post

  2. you talk of history as if there will be an opportunity
    to review it

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