Fool me once, shame on you; fool me … how many times has Barack Obama fooled us on “transparency” at this point?
The president remarkably – I’d argue shockingly at this point – invoked a promise of transparency in his State of the Union Address last night in regards to his administration’s use of drones to assassinate targets (not that he used either “drone” or “assassinate”):
As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That is why my Administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word that we're doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.
The way that selection is worded -- “we have kept Congress fully informed” -- you’d think that Obama had, you know, kept Congress fully informed on what the policies were. Not true. Not true at all.
Politifact did not find this paragraph worth its time to analyze, focusing instead on whose idea the sequester really was (and providing cover for Obama by saying that he proposed it as a negotiating tool and didn’t want it to actually pass), despite the significant amount of press given to the leaked white paper that detailed the Department of Justice’s guidelines for drone killings.
Adam Serwer at Mother Jones hits back at his latest transparently fabricated claims of transparency:
Obama's past record, however, suggests that his promises of transparency will be unmet, and his promise to "continue to engage with Congress" implies that he believes his administration is already meeting most of its transparency obligations.
So far, Obama has disclosed few details of the targeted killing program to Congress, let alone to the public. Until last week, the Obama administration had never shared any of the Department of Justice legal memos justifying the use of targeted killing against American terror suspects abroad. Only recently did the congressional intelligence committees begin monthly visits to CIA headquarters to observe videos of targeted killing operations, and that only began at the insistence of Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate intelligence committee. As the American Civil Liberties Union's Chris Anders told me last July, when Congress was considering compelling the administration to share the targeted killing memos with Congress, "The key committees of Congress don't even know what the legal standard [for targeted killing] is or how they're applying it. So how can they do meaningful oversight?"
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has publicly expressed frustration at the lack of information the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been able to get from the Department of Justice regarding drone use and CIA cybersecurity measures. Jacob Sullum noted earlier today that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is threatening to block John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA unless the administration provides clearer answers on drone strike guidelines.
This does not sound like a “fully informed” Congress.
Mike Riggs documented the president’s failures of transparency in our December 2012 issue of Reason Magazine. Read it here.