You Spelled “Spying” Wrong: Obama on Transparency


For nearly five years, President Obama has touted his Administration as transparent. The White House’s website even says so:

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.

In February, the President directly bragged that this goal had been accomplished:

“This is the most transparent administration in history,” Obama said during a Google Plus “Fireside” Hangout.

“I can document that this is the case,” he continued. “Every visitor that comes into the White House is now part of the public record. Every law we pass and every rule we implement we put online for everyone to see.”

If we take the President at his word, it would stand to reason that he would know a lot of what’s going on inside of his Administration. Say, when the NSA is spying on the leaders of other nations:

The National Security Agency ended a program used to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a number of other world leaders after an internal Obama administration review started this summer revealed to the White House the existence of the operation, U.S. officials said.

… The account suggests President Barack Obama went nearly five years without knowing his own spies were bugging the phones of world leaders. Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them.

Side note: If the NSA has so many spying operations underway that phone tapping world leaders doesn’t warrant a White House notification, what does?

In his February statement, the President said national security requires a certain amount of secrecy. And officials say the program spying on Chancellor Merkel was started under President Bush, and was run at the NSA level of authority, meaning the President was unlikely to have heard about it. The problem comes when other claims of ignorance keep piling up. One’s a fluke, two’s a pattern. Consider:

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta the President didn’t know about the issues with the Obamacare exchange and website until after October 1. She suggests we are supposed to believe the President didn’t know about issues with his most important domestic law.

In May, Jon Stewart hammered the President for saying he didn’t know about the Department of Justice’s seizing of journalist records, the IRS’ harassment of Tea Party groups, and Fast & Furious gun walking operations into Mexico. He went so far as to quip:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if President Obama learned Osama bin Laden had been killed when he saw himself announce it on television.”

Okay, so the President’s not very transparent with himself. But surely he is transparent with everyone else. Right?

The President Barack Obama administration has “chilled the flow of information on issues of great public interest,” according to a Thursday report that amounts to an indictment of the president’s campaign pledge of a more open government.

The report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit dedicated to global press freedoms, said Obama has “fallen short” on his promises of a transparent government while at the same time forging ahead with an unprecedented effort — the “most aggressive” since the President Richard M. Nixon administration —  to silence government officials and the media.

That’s not all. A Friday piece at Breitbart noted that the Administration misled the public on why flopped, claiming it was about “glitches” instead of a wholesale failure of management. This is no surprise, of course – the Administration claimed for some time the Benghazi assault was over a YouTube movie instead of coordinated terrorists attacks.

Transparency is the least of the President’s concerns. If Obama is truly this ignorant of the apparatuses under his command, the American people have no reason to believe he is in control of these armed, powerful agencies.

When even Hollywood is demanding a reduction in the reach of government, something very, very wrong has happened. As the President, Obama is responsible, ignorant or not.