March 09, 2015

FOIA is DOA

The Hillary email story prompts a smorgasbord of issues:  secrecy versus transparency, national security, Hillary's hypocrisy and sense of entitlement, how her private email account was known to the Benghazi Committee for at least six months but they said nothing either due to incompetence or because the committee is a sham.

So there's a lot to the story.  But some say it won't have much political impact because Jane and Joe Citizen won't care about what server Clinton's email resided on.  And that is certainly a possibility. Some say it's merely a media story because it's an affront to them in that if a public official is able to hide work communications it makes getting stories harder.

And I I get all that, but I'm not in the media and yet am highly exercised over this story.

Part of the reason may be that I know too much about the context this is coming in: the dramatic undermining of  the Freedom of Information Act  by this administration.  (Which was the bolder and more blatant lie? That George W. Bush would have a humble foreign policy or that Obama would have a transparent administration?  Answer: Obama's lie was bigger, because Bush had the decency not to keep saying it after it was proven patently untrue.)

This should concern us all and not merely the media.  As Scott Woodham wrote:
This trend means that eventually, if they aren't already, government officials will use private email accounts to conduct every kind of state business except to make the blandest, most innocuous statements. The face of our government will become a public mask scrubbed of all import, unresponsive to any meaningful request for information in the public interest. It's pretty close to that already.
Our technology allows unprecedented connectivity, and it is advancing faster than ever. If public oversight doesn't catch up, it could get left behind for good. And then the public's right to know will be completely thwarted.
When that happens, we'll only have ourselves to blame. We must not allow public access to the inner workings of our government to become a partisan issue instead of the civic one it always will be no matter who's in charge.
One of the seemingly most obvious things - that our public officials work for us and not vice-versa - is increasingly getting lost.

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