As Barack Obama’s last year in the White House unfolds, it’s clear that many of his idealistic promises went unfulfilled. One pledge in particular, which was made when he began his first term, has been proven demonstrably false.
On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly said that he would run “the most transparent administration in history.” He repeated this claim as his presidency went on. But the facts tell a much different story.
According to David Burnham at the FOIA project, an organization that tracks all record requests made of the federal government under the Freedom of Information Act, lawsuits filed as a result of data being denied to inquirers has skyrocketed in recent years.
As Burnham explained, “The annual number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases filed in federal court has reached an all time high of 498 in fiscal year 2015.” This is an indication that the Obama administration has failed to meet the expectations it initially laid out surrounding government transparency.
Wrote Burnham, “The administration’s record has been a contentious matter ever since President Obama’s first days in office, when both he and Attorney General Eric Holder made sweeping claims about the ambitious FOIA policies they would follow in the years ahead. In a short memorandum to the heads of all Executive Branch departments and agencies, the president said the Freedom of Information Act ‘should be administered with a clear presumption: in the face of doubt, openness prevails.’”
In reality, quite the opposite has been true, as this graphic created by the FOIA Project indicates.
Burnham noted that the top target of FOIA requests is the Justice Department, with the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Drug Enforcement Administration not too far behind.
As the number of lawsuits filed due to the government’s refusal to provide requested information increased in recent years, there’s no indication that the Obama administration attempted to be more open about its inner-workings. Instead, complainants are subjected to lengthy proceedings, many of which last up to two years.
”Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” said an ambitious Obama at the beginning of his term. As his reign comes to an end, it’s abundantly clear that this was never the case.