Barack Obama entered the presidency promising an unprecedented level of transparency in government--at least, one greater than his predecessor George W. Bush's.
A White House memorandum published in the federal register states this goal explicitly and proudly:
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.
Under a subheading in that memo, "Government should be transparent," the President explained further:
Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.
Yet today the White House has denied the release of tens of thousands of documents requested for the investigation of Operation Fast and Furious -- an ATF program which sold thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, some of which were used in the shootings of hundreds of Mexican civilians and a U.S. Border Patrol agent named Brian Terry -- based on executive privilege.
The decision comes as Congress mulls a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. It also comes one day after the Obama Administration filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission demanding that Karl Rove's Super PAC, "Crossroads GPS," disclose its list of private donors.
In 2007, then-Senator Obama criticized president George W. Bush for "hiding behind" executive privilege--which, coincidentally, was used to prevent Karl Rove from testifying on the firing of several U.S. attorneys.