Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by government watchdog group Judicial Watch suggest that the White House had direct involvement in shutting a transparency hearing to the press.
“Please don’t have them reach out to any reporters before I clear [with White House] press,” wrote White House Deputy Associate Counsel Blake Roberts to the Office of Information Policy (OIP), about what should have been a fairly noncontroversial training session.
The workshop was conducted by the OIP for Department of Justice employees on FOIA compliance procedures.
Another email, from DOJ Press Release Deputy Director Gina Talamona to the OIP and the attorney general’s office, says “after talking with … [then-Assistant White House Press Secretary] Ben Labolt, the decision is that the training will be closed to the press.”
And if holding a secretive, closed-door meeting on government transparency makes the Obama administration’s open-government rhetoric seem a bit insincere, the irony was not lost on the transparency advocates.
“These documents suggest that it is the Obama White House that is directly responsible for this unprecedented lack of transparency,” wrote Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a statement. “Only in Washington would political appointees think it appropriate to keep secret a government workshop on transparency.”
On his first day in office, President Obama promised to “usher in a new era of open government,” but when it comes to ushering reporters in to a standard meeting on a transparency, that era eludes the administration.
“There is a scandalously wide gap,” Fitton concluded, “between Barack Obama’s rhetoric on transparency and the secretive policies of his administration.”