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This being “Sunshine Week”—a nationwide effort by public-interest groups to promote greater access to government information—President Obama took the occasion to once again officially proclaim his commitment to an “unmatched level of transparency” throughout his administration.
But somehow they never got the memo at the CIA.
Responding today to a longstanding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by the ACLU, the CIA released a stack of internal documents about the treatment of terrorist detainees.
One of the documents is especially revealing, although perhaps not in the way the spymasters at Langley intended. It’s a copy of a letter that was sent by three members of Congress to President Bush and then was routed to the CIA for a response nearly three years ago.
The only problem?
The CIA, in replying to the FOIA request, blacked out one crucial paragraph as too sensitive to disclose—even though the whole letter was publicly released by the congressmen at the time and is still publicly accessible (in its entirety) on the Web site of one of the congressmen, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey.
In just the last few days, virtually unnoticed by most of the news media, Obama administration officials have:
*Rejected a new Freedom of Information request for White House visitor logs (despite their announced intention to start making such documents public).
*Appealed, yet again, to invoke “state secrets” to block a lawsuit that might shed light on the CIA’s extraordinary rendition of terror suspects to countries that practice torture.
*Gotten Congress to pass legislation that would prevent graphic photographs of detainee abuse by the U.S. government from ever becoming public.
And all of this is in spite of Obama’s vow—in a memo on the first full day of his presidency—to create “an unprecedented level of openness” in government.