Here’s an important story you may have missed while blissed out on apple pie and rockets red glare over the 4th of July weekend: The Obama White House is helping Dick Cheney to cover up his involvement in the leak of the true identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame.
You may remember that the Democrats used the Plame leak as a political weapon against the Republicans for years, saying that the Bush Administration’s refusal to come clean and share information about the leak represented a criminal abuse of power, and showed that the Republicans were not fit to hold public office. People like us, who opposed the Bush Administration’s agenda, joined in the criticism. So, what should we do now that Barack Obama is engaging in the same cover up? Should we fall silent, for the sake of political convenience?
A while ago, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit seeking to obtain the transcript of an interview of Dick Cheney conducted prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Cheney was never promised that the interview would remain confidential. Yet, the Bush Administration refused to allow the information to be released.
A few months ago, we might have expected that this matter would be quickly resolved, what with Barack Obama taking office. Yet, that’s not how things have worked out. Yet again, President Obama has decided to support George W. Bush’s policies of government secrecy. At the end of last week, the Obama Administration filed papers arguing against the release of Dick Cheney’s interview, saying that if politicians being interviewed about suspected criminal behavior thought that their interviews might become public, they wouldn’t agree to be interviewed at all… except under a subpoena, and who wants to see things come to that?
Actually, that’s how the system is supposed to work. People under investigation, or holding information that could be related to an investigation of somebody else, are asked to provide that information, without any expectation that it will be kept private. Many suspects and witnesses refuse. That’s their right. Government investigators can then come back, however, and issue subpoenas that compel people to show up to be interviewed under oath. People still have the right to refuse to answer questions, because of the 5th Amendment’s guarantee of protection from self-incrimination. If this is the system that applies to ordinary criminal investigations, why shouldn’t it apply to investigations of White House crimes?
The Obama Administration’s arguments against providing information from the interview of Dick Cheney suggest that, if there isn’t belief in secrecy of interviews with prosecutors, White House officials won’t cooperate with investigations in the future. That resistant, secretive attitude isn’t what Barack Obama told us he would bring to the White House.
This isn’t at all the first time that the Obama Administration has refused to share important information with the public. Barack Obama has been refusing Freedom of Information Act requests left and right. There’s the case of photographic evidence of torture that Obama won’t allow to see the right of day.
There’s also the more recent case of Barack Obama’s secret meetings with energy industry executives in the process of determining his energy policies. Remember how Bush and Cheney held secret meetings with oil and coal industry executives, giving them special access and influence over the development of an energy bill that was filled with big government giveaways for them? Now Barack Obama is doing the same thing. It seems Obama met with executives from companies that are in the business of burning fossil fuels. The American Clean Energy and Security Act subsequently offered government subsidies to fossil fuel companies for “clean coal” projects (call it “carbon sequestration” if you like). The Obama White House says it won’t share the records of which executives it met with – just as Bush and Cheney wouldn’t share the records of its own meetings.
Once again, Barack Obama is merely putting a new face on the same old rotten Bush-Cheney policies. Thank goodness that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is on the job, offering the same kind of criticism of Obama that it once offered to Bush and Cheney.