One of President Obama's first official acts in office was taking the power of the presidential pen and shredding the cloak of secrecy the Bush Administration used to bury important government information. "Openness prevails," the Obama memo on transparency and open government promised when it came to deciding whether or not a government agency should disclose a piece of information. Cheers went up, back slaps and smiles prevailed... somewhere a tear of happiness was probably shed. A new dawn of information freedom would reign in Washington. Almost.
Apparently the folks in the office of the United States Trade Representative didn't get their "Openness Prevails" bumper stickers and lapel pins. In a recent and bewildering move, the USTR denied a Freedom of Information Act request for documents surrounding the largely secret negotiations surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Despite its name, ACTA carries huge impact on a broad range of copyright issues. The secrecy of the negotiations has spawned rumor and speculation. Lifting the veil on that secrecy would lay the rumors to rest and allow for a diversity of voices and opinions to weigh in on the issues. The USTR isn't buying it.
Instead, those documents were denied release based on national security grounds. And that's despite the fact that a wide range of industry representatives have been given full access to the documents.
I know the Obama Administration has its hands full with a myriad of important issues, but it could at least make sure all agencies are using the same playbook when it comes to the issues of transparency and open government.
The last thing we need to be doing right now is playing policy whack-a-mole while trying to rid the government of bad Bush doctrine.