June 19, 2011

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Step forward, America’s leading guardians of free speech and open government. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Project on Government Oversight, George Washington University’s National Security Archive, OpenTheGovernment.org, and OMB Watch banded together in March to batter down 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s doors and highlight this very issue. And they got in. Did they hand the president a petition demanding protection for the kind of whistleblowers Obama promised to support during his candidacy? Well, no.

These august institutions whose raison d’être is public access to government’s inner workings penetrated Obama’s sanctum sanctorum last March to tell him—wait for it—to keep up the good work. There was no demand that he rethink his prosecutions of Manning, Drake, Kim, or anyone else. There was no plea for him to keep his campaign promise to open the White House visitor logs. There was not even a request for him to end the arrests, of which there are more than 2,600 to date, of anti-war protestors.

The liberal guardians of our right to know were cleverer than that. Anyone can complain about secret government and the state hiding its crimes from public scrutiny. They outsmarted their critics by marching boldly into Obama’s lair, past his armed henchmen, and confronting a president whose record on governmental transparency would be the envy of the old Kremlin to hand him their “transparency award.” The best part is that the public and press were not permitted to witness the ceremony. How is that for open government?

As with giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a president waging two wars simultaneously, awarding the “transparency” prize to history’s most opaque president is, in the words of its sponsors, “aspirational.” They theoretically aspired, as if awarding the Order of Decency to Pablo Escobar, to influence the recipient to change his ways. Why not a banquet to honor former Congressman Weiner with a “World’s Greatest New Husband” award? Or a bequest for “Respect for Human Life” to Ayman al-Zawahiri?

Let’s give a Nobel for medicine to Obama in the hope he finds a cure for cancer. And an Oscar for Best Actor to inspire him to star in a film as a truthful president. Here’s an aspiration: why not a Darwin Award for…you know what they’re for.

What the hell is wrong with these five groups or, for that matter, the Nobel Committee? Obama is determinedly pursuing two wars and dozens of whistleblowers. Organizations that should be defending the peace and the electorate’s right to know are instead rewarding him for violating principles they exist to promote. Obama can conceal torture and death squads, and he can pretend he is obeying the Constitution and the War Powers Act when he decides on his own to commit American forces in Libya. But do we really expect groups such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to indulge a politician who has convened grand juries to force journalists to reveal their sources?

In an open letter published in the Guardian on June 14, Daniel Ellsberg, former Justice and State Department officials, and many others urged the donors to rescind Obama’s transparency award. You can sign their petition HERE.



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