Despite claims of being the most transparent and open administration in history, my colleague Josh Gerstein reports that the president and his team have made some key stumbles:
Open-government advocates say some administration practices are actually undercutting Obama’s goal. Among their complaints:
• Administration lawyers are aggressively fighting FOIA requests at the agency level and in court — sometimes on Obama’s direct orders. They’ve also wielded anti-transparency arguments even bolder than those asserted by the Bush administration.
• The administration has embarked on an unprecedented wave of prosecutions of whistleblowers and alleged leakers — an effort many journalists believe is aimed at blocking national security-related stories. “There just seems to be a disconnect here. You want aggressive journalism abroad; you just don’t want it in the United States,” ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper told White House press secretary Jay Carney at a recent briefing for reporters.
• In one of those cases, the Justice Department is trying to force a New York Times reporter to identify his confidential sources and is arguing that he has no legal protection from doing so.
• Compliance with agencies’ open-government plans has been spotty, with confusing and inaccurate metrics sometimes used to assess progress. Some federal agencies are also throwing up new hurdles, such as more fees, in the path of those seeking records.
• The Office of Management and Budget has stalled for more than a year the proposals of the chief FOIA ombudsman’s office to improve governmentwide FOIA operations.