Uncovering information that should be available to the public has become increasingly difficult under the presidency of Barack Obama, an Associated Press bureau chief says. In some cases, it surpasses the secrecy of the George W. Bush administration.
The White House’s penchant for secrecy does not just apply to the federal government, according to AP’s Washington bureau chief, Sally Buzbee. During a joint meeting of news editors, she stated that the same kind of behavior is starting to appear in state and local governments.
Buzbee pointed out eight ways that the Obama administration is stifling public access to information – including keeping reporters away from witnessing any military action the United States takes as it battles Islamic State extremists in the Middle East.
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“The public can’t see any of it,” Buzbee said, referring to the military campaign. “News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off – there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the [US] bombers fly from.”
She also expressed frustration with the government’s handling of the upcoming 9/11 trial, during which journalists are prohibited from looking at even non-classified court filings in real time.
“We don’t know what prosecutors are asking for, or what defense attorneys are arguing,” she said.
Meanwhile, basic information about the prison complex in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is being withheld from the public, despite the fact that the Bush administration freely shared this data. The media is unable to learn how many inmates are on hunger strike in the infamous prison, or how frequently assaults on guards take place.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have become harder than ever to process, Buzbee added. Government officials often fail to do so unless media outlets bring a lawsuit to bear.
At the same time, federal officials have begun pressuring state and local agencies to keep quiet.
“The FBI has directed local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology the police departments use to sweep up cellphone data,” Buzbee said. “In some cases, federal officials have formally intervened in state open records cases, arguing for secrecy.”