On his first day as president, Barack Obama said, "For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city." He promised that "information will not be withheld just because I say so." But while Obama has released some documents related to the war on terror, he also has denied requests for documents that are, at most, tenuously related to national security.
Since October 2007 dozens of nations, including the United States, have been negotiating international standards for enforcement of intellectual property rights, a deal known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. A group called Knowledge Ecology International, founded by Ralph Nader and focused on fairness issues related to the information economy, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to learn about the state of the negotiations.
"Please be advised the documents you seek are being withheld in full," wrote Carmen Suro-Bredie, chief FOIA officer in the White House's Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, on March 10. Suro-Bredie added that the documents fall under an executive order pertaining to information "properly classified in the interest of national security."
Although the documents are secret, you can view them if you're a "cleared adviser." The list of cleared advisers includes a large number of people involved in industries with something to gain from the agreement's details. Wired reported that leaks suggest the agreement would "criminalize peer-to-peer file sharing, subject iPods to border searches, and allow Internet service providers to monitor their customers' communications."