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Government Transparency on Warrantless Wiretapping, Obama Style

Take a tally! Look at what I promised during the campaign. There’s not a single thing that I’ve said that I would do that I have not either done or tried to do. And if I haven’t gotten it done yet, I’m still trying to do it.

President Barack Obama, December 7 2010

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama promised to restore respect for the Freedom of Information Act, so that Americans wouldn’t have to sue in order to get information on the workings of their own government:

RESTORE MEANING TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT: The American people deserve to know what their government does and why. Ours is an open government, and our ability to understand our government at work–the freedom of information we enjoy–has been copied by other countries around the world. The Freedom of Information Act is a pillar of our open government. Unfortunately, in recent years our government has failed to keep the American people informed about what it was doing and why, and it has refused to provide Americans with information they are entitled to by law. Turning our tradition of free information upside down, the Bush administration has instructed agencies to presume citizens are not entitled to information unless they are willing to sue for it. Barack Obama would restore the tradition of free information by issuing an Executive Order that information should be released unless an agency reasonably foresees harm to a protected interest.

Sounded good, didn’t it? Well, that was then. This is now.

The American Civil Liberties Union, after having filed a series of Freedom Of Information Act requests for information on warrantless wiretapping in America, had to go to court to get a judge to force the Obama administration to obey federal law and release the information. Even then, the Obama administration only released that information on warrantless wiretapping this week in the sense that a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget is made of chicken.

Take, for instance, the FBI General Counsel’s legal opinion of June 7, 2010. We know it must have something to do with warrantless wiretapping programs because it was released under the ACLU’s FOIA request for information regarding warrantless wiretapping. But beyond that, we have no idea. Even the subject heading of the legal opinion has been blocked out:

Obama administration FOIA release of an almost completely redacted memo on a legal opinion regarding the warrantless wiretapping program

Is whiteout transparent?

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