â€œTransparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,â€ Barack Obama promised during his campaign for the White House. To that end, Obama promised to post each non-emergency bill passed by Congress on the Internet for five days before signing or vetoing it, giving the public a chance to review the final version of the legislation before it becomes law. But according to the website Washington Watch, of the 11 bills heâ€™d signed at press time, he had fulfilled his promise with just one.
The president was more convincingly transparent when he rescinded a Bush-era order instructing federal agencies to always err on the side of denying Freedom of Information Act requests. Unfortunately, Obama also decided to continue invoking the â€œstate secretsâ€ doctrine in two major cases. One is a lawsuit in which suspected (but ultimately released) terrorists claim they were kidnapped by the U.S. government and sent to other countries to be tortured. The other is a suit involving the federal governmentâ€™s warrantless wiretapping program. In both cases, the Bush and now Obama administrations have been attempting not merely to exclude sensitive pieces of evidence but to prevent any sort of trial from taking place at all.