Transparency? What Transparency?

By Rick Brinegar

“I’m probably the most transparent person in public life”   -Hillary Clinton, 2008


“This is the most transparent administration in history”    -President Obama, 2013



No matter how “open” they claim to be, sometimes it seems that politicians believe that the normal rules don’t apply to them.


At its best, it looks like there was possibly a security risk when Hillary Clinton used a personal email account, registered to her New York residence, rather than a government email account, during her four years at the State Department, as reported in the New York Times. At its worst, her email procedure may have violated federal record-keeping regulations that are meant to keep government business transparent.


Hillary Clinton had been previously recognized as a crusader for government transparency. She had received Transparency International-USA’s Integrity Award in 2012 “for her work in promoting transparency and integrity worldwide.”


The Bush administration had also been tainted by the shadow of deceptive secrecy. When Clinton first became Secretary of State at the beginning of 2009, George W. Bush was still under scrutiny for a major ongoing scandal about officials in his administration who had used personal email to avoid scrutiny while conducting government business. Also, the Bush administration had begun to systematically hide its actions from public view.


In a memo issued on the day after his inauguration in 2009, President Obama promised a commitment to an open government, writing, “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.” Soon, massive amounts of information flowed into public databases. But while this free flow of data was in progress, the Obama administration also began prosecuting leakers as no previous administration had ever done. It also began hiding directives and legal opinions which supported government actions, not just sensitive national security intelligence.


The Tans-Pacific Partnership, vigorously promoted by President Obama and supported by many congressional Republicans, will probably allow American corporations to outsource even more jobs overseas. It will probably allow big corporations and banks to eliminate any laws and regulations that get in the way of their profits. But we don’t know for sure. All the TPP negotiations have been held in secret.


Instead of being transparent and open about the inner workings of government, our leaders tend to be secretive, opaque and deceptive. Whenever government officials say, “Trust us,” we should immediately sense that tragedy is in the works.