October 5, 2013
Remember when the media rushed to talk about transparency in the Barack Obama “Hope and Change” era? Good times, good times. Leonard Downie, who once worked as the executive editor of the Washington Post and wrote a novel about Washington corruption and the Iraq War, finds a bigger and non-fictional problem in the successor to George W. Bush. Downie gives the Post a preview of his report from the Committee to Protect Journalists which outlines the Obama war on reporters and their sources:
“A memo went out from the chief of staff a year ago to White House employees and the intelligence agencies that told people to freeze and retain any e-mail, and presumably phone logs, of communications with me,” Sanger said. As a result, longtime sources no longer talk to him. “They tell me: ‘David, I love you, but don’t e-mail me. Let’s don’t chat until this blows over.’ ”Sanger, who has worked for the Times in Washington for two decades, said, “This is most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”Many leak investigations include lie-detector tests for government officials with access to the information at issue. “Reporters are interviewing sources through intermediaries now,” Barr told me, “so the sources can truthfully answer on polygraphs that they didn’t talk to reporters.”The investigations have been “a kind of slap in the face” for reporters and their sources, said Smith of the Center for Public Integrity. “It means you have to use extraordinary measures for contacts with officials speaking without authorization.”
Amusingly, Downie posits this question at the end of the essay:
Will Obama recognize that all this threatens his often-stated but unfulfilled goal of making government more transparent and accountable? None of the Washington news media veterans I talked to were optimistic.“Whenever I’m asked what is the most manipulative and secretive administration I’ve covered, I always say it’s the one in office now,” Bob Schieffer, CBS News anchor and chief Washington correspondent, told me. “Every administration learns from the previous administration. They become more secretive and put tighter clamps on information. This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”
Does it even occur to Downie that Obama’s claim to deliver “the most transparent administration ever” (not just incrementally more transparent than before) was simply a load of hogwash? Apparently not — because if Downie and the rest of the Obama-fawning media had to acknowledge that possibility, then they would have to ask themselves why Obama would deliberately set out to make his administration the least transparent ever, as Schieffer acknowledges.