When President Obama stated last year that his White House is "the most transparent administration in history," he acknowledged that this pronouncement did not necessarily translate to the national security arena.
What he failed to say is that, with regard to 'national security' concerns, this White House has become historically and bombastically opaque – so much so that articles such as this one require the "not satire" tag.
Per The New York Times:
The Obama administration is clamping down on a technique that government officials have long used to join in public discussions of well-known but technically still-secret information: citing news reports based on unauthorized disclosures.Meaning: both current and former officials are now prohibited from mentioning the existence of a news report based upon leaked classified information. We're not talking here about a prohibition against leaking information or validating that a leak has occurred. We're talking about a prohibition against acknowledging that, say, a New York Times article about leaked information which everyone has read even exists.
A new pre-publication review policy for the Office of Director of National Intelligence says the agency’s current and former employees and contractors may not cite news reports based on leaks in their speeches, opinion articles, books, term papers or other unofficial writings.
The penalties for doing so – for neutrally citing the existence of a news report – include demotions and loss of security clearances. This policy is apparently part of the directive set in March by Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, prohibiting officials at 17 intelligence agencies from talking to the press without prior approval.
Experts and intelligence officials are finding the new policy not just absurd, but potentially a violation of former officials' First Amendment rights. Here's Timothy H. Edgar of Brown University talking to the Times:
It [goes] too far to retroactively block former officials from citing news reports in the public domain, as long as they did so neutrally and did not confirm them as factually correct. That would amount to a prior restraint on former officials’ First Amendment rights that they did not consent to, he said.The Obama administration's move, after Edward Snowden, to hermetically seal intelligence officials from the press is symptomatic of a larger trend within the administration, making it one of the least transparent in our history regarding 'national security' issues.
“You’re basically saying people can’t talk about what everyone in the country is talking about,” he said. “I think that is awkward and overly broad in terms of restricting speech.”
And that lack of transparency relates directly to those actions – surveillance, drone strikes, torture – which themselves have legality and constitutionality issues (to put it mildly).
Now, the directives maintaining that lack of transparency themselves have questionable constitutional merit.
So much for transparency.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.