Back, many months ago, when Barack Obama was inaugurated as President, he promised us that he would bring us a new era of government openness. Unfortunately, that’s not how things have turned out. The Obama White House has continued Bush Administration claims that the President is above the law, and has the power to keep things secret, even from Congress and the Supreme Court, just because he personally deems it necessary.
So, I suppose I should not be surprised that documents that the Electronic Frontier Foundation finally forced Obama’s Department of Justice to release are filled with pages like this one, almost completely blacked out. The document comes from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and we know that it was emailed to John Demers at the Department of Justice at 12:19 AM on May 23 of last year, but we don’t know much else. We know that the email was written in response to another message, entitled Offer to Hoyer. We don’t know who, other than John Demers, received the email. We don’t know who sent the email. We don’t have any idea about the content of the email. Almost the entire page is blacked out.
This is the kind of excessive secrecy that we came to expect during the presidency of George W. Bush. It’s not what we were led to believe we would see from the Obama Administration.
Yet, there it is, all redacted. What are we to do with this big shadow of secrecy over our own representative government?
I say that if Barack Obama and his aides decide to keep Bush’s secret documents secret, we just go ahead and make up the contents. Let’s imagine what might be in this email that Obama won’t share with us as a kind of fiction experiment. After all, when open government is a fiction, all that good citizens can do is to respond with fiction of their own.
Here’s what I imagine the email said. If you think I’m wrong, then you can comment with a version of your own.
From: Dick Cheney
Sent: 05/23/2008 12:19 AM EDT
To: John Boehner; “John Demers”
; Joseph Lieberman
CC: Barack Obama
Thank you for the constructive tone of your proposal. I think that there is a great deal of material that we can work with here, but POTUS asked me to communicate some areas of concern.
1) Is there precedent for providing a special protection for surveillance for matters pertaining to Mr. Hoyer’s aunt’s Sugarcake of the Month Club of Southern Maryland? We are reluctant to create a potential safehaven for agents of foreign powers with this clause.
2) The exchange of photographs of White House staff meeting with lobbyists for the Rubber Ferret Sexuality Defense Club, for DNI files containing evidence of congressional representatives’ glue sniffing parties should NOT take place on government property.
3) We are willing to support an amendment to the legislation officially declaring that voting for the FISA Amendments Act counts as an example of “change” and “hope”, as Senator Obama has requested, but the amendment will need to remain classified.
4) We would seek an alteration in subsection 22 of section A, inserting the word “pretty” in front of the word “please”, and further inserting the phrase “with a cherry on top”.
5) Per Senator McCain’s demand, the phrase “unless she can see Russia from her front porch” will be tabled until Senator Lieberman has finished considering the offer of a weekly case of herring in lieu of the vice presidential nomination.
6) A George W. Bush Memorial Skating Rink would be preferable to a George W. Bush Memorial Snow Cone Stand.