'Meteroic Rise' of US Gov't Censorship of Public Records

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by
Common Dreams

'Meteroic Rise' of US Gov't Censorship of Public Records

Critics call the administration's view of government 'by the powerful, for the powerful, and keep the public in the dark'

by
Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The Obama Administration, which came to power promising unparalleled transparency, is reportedly now censoring more public records—citing issues of "national security"—than any previous time since the President took office.

According to a new analysis by the Associated Press of citizen requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the administration fully rejected over one third of the requests made in 2012, a slight increase over 2011. However, the government withheld or censored items more than 479,000 times citing "exemptions built into the law"—a roughly 22 percent increase over the previous year.

The analysis continues:

In a year of intense public interest over deadly U.S. drones, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, terror threats and more, the government cited national security to withhold information at least 5,223 times – a jump over 4,243 such cases in 2011 and 3,805 cases in Obama's first year in office. The secretive CIA last year became even more secretive: Nearly 60 percent of 3,586 requests for files were withheld or censored for that reason last year, compared with 49 percent a year earlier.

Other federal agencies that invoked the national security exception included the Pentagon, Director of National Intelligence, NASA, Office of Management and Budget, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Communications Commission and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.

"We've seen a meteoric rise in the number of claims to protect secret law, the government's interpretations of laws or its understanding of its own authority," said Alexander Abdo, an ACLU staff attorney for its national security project. "In some ways, the Obama administration is actually even more aggressive on secrecy than the Bush administration."

Calling the AP's analysis "deeply troubling," FireDogLake's D.S. Wright remarked, "The administration has committed itself to running a shadow government when it comes to security policy that has now drifted into censoring even benign information for fear it could prove to be embarrassing."

"[N]ow it seems that Obama has decided to dump his campaign promises and adopt the Bush Administration’s view of government," he continues, "by the powerful, for the powerful, and keep the public in the dark."

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