The public's business should be conducted in public. When it can't be viewed as it occurs, such as the countless day-to-day dealings of the vast federal administrative bureaucracy, at least records of what transpired should be made available to the public.
President Barack Obama nobly promised that his would be an unprecedentedly transparent presidency. But from the shrouded Fast and Furious debacle to the administration's apparent reluctance to be candid from Day 1 about the deadly events in Benghazi, Libya, the president has failed to live up to his promise of transparency.
President Barack Obama leaves the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, for a trip to Southeast Asia, his first trip abroad since the election campaign.
Associated Press Photo
The unavoidable question is, "Why the hesitancy to disclose, promptly and fully?"
Now the Obama administration is suspected of withholding thousands of emails from public scrutiny, including many allegedly sent through private, rather than government, accounts, expressly to keep them secret. POLITICAL CARTOONS Santa, et al, a little too eager.
A House committee investigation recently opened concerning whether EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson used an email alias to hide correspondence from open-government requests and from her agency's own internal watchdog, something Republicans say may run afoul of the law, reported the Washington Times.
The EPA emails also are sought by the conservative think tank, Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has sued to force the release of the communications made in the "secondary," private accounts "set up so they can conduct discussions" beyond the reach of FOIA disclosures.
And on Wednesday Sen. David Vitter, R-La., sent a letter to Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner demanding the administration release 7,300 emails from a "new quasiagency" that appears to have been established in anticipation of regulating carbon dioxide either through a new carbon cap-and-trade program or a new carbon tax, both highly controversial proposals the administration has yet to officially advance publicly.
An analysis by Bloomberg News in September found 19 of 20 Cabinet-level agencies failed to follow requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, disobeying the law's mandate to disclose public information. The analysis of government requests filed by Bloomberg News discovered an alarming number of transparency violations, particularly when it came to taxpayer-funded costs of travel by top officials.
"My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government," the president has said, correctly noting that accountability and public trust are dependent on government being transparent. He has an opportunity to live up to those lofty words. Or Mr. Obama can continue to stonewall and obfuscate, as have so many before him. The president should choose to disclose.