Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.” — Lord Acton
Since being inaugurated in 2009, President Barack Obama has issued 30 Presidential Policy Directives (PPD), 19 of which he has ordered to be kept secret from Congress and the American people.
Barack Obama campaigned for president promising to usher in an era of transparency in government. That promise stands next to “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” in the Barack Obama Presidential Hall of Shame.
No less than USA Today called attention to these secret orders in an article published on June 24. The article explained:
Of the 30 PPDs issued by Obama, 19 have not been released. And for 11 of those, the White House has not disclosed even the subject of the order.
“It’s not only the public that doesn’t have copies. It’s also Congress that doesn’t have copies,” Aftergood said. “It’s a domain of largely unchecked presidential authority. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it’s lacking in independent oversight.”
But they have the same legal force as an executive order, forming a body of largely secret law, said Harold Relyea, a political scientist who advised Congress on national security directives before retiring from the Congressional Research Service.
“The difference is that while executive orders are public by law — they must be published in the Federal Register to be effective — PPDs are not,” he said. “It is a kind of secret law. People have to obey it. But it’s a directive that can allocate money, direct people or take a course of action.”