Sunday, January 9, 2011

Transparency in the Age of Obama by Cindy Sheehan

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. 
 Government should be transparent.  Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.
 Taken from the White House Website - A message from President Obama to his staff.
From the outset of Barack Obama's political career, up until his presidential election victory, a large part of his political platform was the concept of transparency in government. As a legal scholar of Constitutional Law, having taught the subject at the prestigious University of Chicago Law School, his promotion of political decision making transparency, at the time, seemed to be more substance than rhetoric.

The political chattering classes were championing his credentials; many talking heads on the 'liberal left' were predicting the closure of Guantanamo, amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 removing the suspension of habeas corpus, thorough Congressional investigations into warrantless wiretapping etc etc. The 'wish list' was endless, the previous president had spent the majority of his time in office eroding our Constitutional rights and civil liberties at home and tarnishing our image abroad - all sandwiched between his primary pursuit in office: family holidays at Kennebunkport.

Obama was going to be different, he planned to send Mr Lobbyist out of Washington, government was going to be clean, efficient and focused on public good. He knew exactly the dirty secrets of government, an Obama '08 document entitled Restoring Trust and improving Transparency states "Oil and gas executives met with Vice President Cheney to write our energy laws, with the goal of increasing their profits and saddling the public with their environmental and public health costs; Cheney went to the Supreme Court to keep the names of these lobbyists secret." The gig was up for backdoor deals and the time of what Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig calls 'institutionalised corruption', was over. A new sheriff was coming to town. 

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