Obama Claims Administration 'Most Transparent in History'

Fact check finds a length record of failed reform and increased secrecy

February 14, 2013

President Obama once again claimed his administration is the "most transparent in history" Thursday, despite lengthy record of failed reform and increased secrecy.

Obama was answering questions during a Google hangout when a woman questioned him on his promises of greater government transparency, noting things "feels a lot less transparent."

"This is the most transparent administration in history," Obama assured the woman. "I can document that this is the case."

"Every visitor that comes into the White House is now part of the record," Obama continued. "Just about every law that we pass and rule that we implement we put online for everyone to see."

As extensively reported by the Washington Free Beacon, the Obama administration’s record on transparency has been a great source of disappointment to government watchdog groups and journalists.

The administration often points to the White House visitor logs as a tangible example of its commitment to transparency. However, emails revealed that lobbyists sometimes meet with senior White House staff in a Caribou Coffee cafe across the street from the executive mansion to avoid being included in the visitor logs.

The administration’s reforms to the Freedom of Information Act have also fallen short of its goals.

A government-wide audit performed by the National Security Archives in December found 62 of 99 federal agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations since Holder issued a 2009 memorandum instructing them to adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure.

The audit also revealed that 56 agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations since the passage of the OPEN Government Act of 2007, which mandated agencies retool their FOIA offices, including fee structures and reporting.

Holder has done little to implement his guidelines four years after issuing them, and his Justice Department has defended all agencies that chose to withhold information from the public, a report on found.

A Bloomberg investigation found that "19 of 20 cabinet-level agencies disobeyed the law requiring the disclosure of public information."

"In all, just 8 of the 57 federal agencies met Bloomberg’s request for those documents within the 20-day window required by the Act," Bloomberg reported in September 2012.

An August 2012 Washington Post analysis found that early freedom of information progress by the Obama administration "stalled and, in the case of most departments, reversed in direction."

The number of FOIA requests denied in full due to exemptions rose more than 10 percent last year, to 25,636 from 22,834 the previous year, according to the Post’s analysis.

FOIA lawsuits have also risen under the Obama administration.

Outgoing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson used a secret email address to conduct official business, a possible violation of FOIA laws.

The Obama administration has also prosecuted a record number of government whistleblowers and argued against journalistic privilege in court.

It has also jealously guarded the details of its targeted drone strikes, refusing to even acknowledge the existence of the program until recently. It repeatedly denied FOIA requests from the ACLU and the New York Times seeking information on the program.

"Obama is the sixth administration that’s been in office since I’ve been doing Freedom of Information Act work. … It’s kind of shocking to me to say this, but of the six, this administration is the worst on FOIA issues. The worst. There’s just no question about it," Katherine Meyer, a Washington lawyer who’s been filing FOIA cases since 1978, told Politico in March. "This administration is raising one barrier after another. … It’s gotten to the point where I’m stunned—I’m really stunned."