J. D. Heyes
November 21, 2012
When he was elected to his first term in 2008, Barack Obama promised the most open, transparent administration in U.S. history.
“My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government,” he said in a memo to the heads of his Executive Branch agencies.
That was then.
Since that empty promise, there have been a number of occasions where this president and prominent members of his administration have reneged on that pledge. Not all of them are as outrageous as the botched “Fast and Furious” operation or as the Benghazi disaster and the fiasco with disgraced CIA chief David Petraeus, but they are powerful nonetheless because each of them have contributed to an administration that is delivering to the American people the exact opposite of what it swore an oath to deliver.
Gee, just how widespread is this behavior?
One of the latest, but certainly not the greatest, Obama officials to abuse the public’s trust is Lisa Jackson, the head of the meddlesome Environmental Protection Agency. A House committee is investigating whether she used an email alias in an attempt to hide correspondence from open-government requests and her agency’s own watchdog, something GOP lawmakers on the panel say might well be illegal, The Washington Times reported.
The House Science Committee has asked Jackson to release to the panel all information related to an email account in the name of “Richard Windsor,” one of the aliases identified by a researcher who is looking into EPA operations.
The panel has also requested that the White House’s lawyer, as well as the EPA’s inspector general, look into the matter as well, and then report back by month’s end. The committee says the secret email accounts “could have been used to keep key information from official watchdogs as well as the public,” the paper said.
Naturally, the EPA refused to comment on the matter.
The researcher who uncovered the alias “Windsor” email, Christopher Horner, has been locked in repeated battles with the administration over its global warming initiatives. Earlier this year, he and colleagues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued in an attempt to secure the release of emails from “secondary” accounts from the agency, citing a memo saying the practice actually began under the leadership of then-EPA Director Carol Browner, during the Clinton regime.
(J.D. note: Makes you wonder how many more federal agencies do this sort of thing, doesn’t it?)
Horner uncovered the secret email accounts while researching a book, “The Liberal War on Transparency,” which was published last month. He said after the book came out, a pair of former EPA officials told him about the “Richard Windsor” email, saying it was “one of the alternate email addresses she used.”
Horner said he also discovered some EPA employees who were setting up private Gmail (Google email) accounts using their first and last names, along with the word “EPA” as a standard format.
“They’ve been moving government over to private email,” Horner told the Times. “In the book, I reveal private servers the White House had universities and pressure groups set up so they can conduct discussions.”
Private email for public business is illegal, but are they accountable?
Such accounts, and more importantly the reason for such accounts, appears to be a blatant violation of federal open records laws, which are designed to make information available to the public now, and to posterity at the National Archives. The rules prohibit using private emails to try to get around open-records laws.
But several news reports have revealed a number of instances recently where the White House and its various departments and agencies have used private email to do business. That includes the Department of Energy, where Jonathan Silver, the agency’s loan officer, “explicitly directed others to keep loan guarantee communications secret by not linking public and private email accounts, and sent emails detailing official government business using his private email account,” the Science Committee said.
When government no longer feels accountable to the public, the public gets unaccountable government. That seems like such a simple concept, but based on the results of the recent elections – where, after more than $2.5 billion in campaign spending, control of the House, Senate and White House remained unchanged – it’s a concept too many Americans obviously seem willing to accept.
Is it any wonder they don’t care to listen to us anymore?