A large group of noted whistleblowers--including Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers--has written an open letter asking that the "transparency award" given to President Obama by five open government organizations in March be rescinded.
In the letter, published in the UK Guardian, the group of 50 individuals and watchdog organizations called the Obama administration's record on secrecy and surveillance "a disgrace."
The group claims that petitioners have filed more Freedom of Information Act requests made during Obama's first term--with fewer responses--than have been logged in previous years; that the administration has squashed "legal inquiries into secret illegalities more often than any predecessor" and "amassed the worst record in U.S. history for persecuting, prosecuting and jailing government whistleblowers and truth-tellers," including WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning. The letter also notes that the White House has refused to make its visitor logs public, while overseeing a 15 percent spike last year in budgetary outlays for classifying secrets. The Obama administration has spent $10 billion in enforcing secrecy protocols, the letter notes--the first time any White House has eclipsed that mark."Obama's department of justice is twisting the 1917 Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national security leaks," the letter reads, "more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined."
The president "has set a powerful and chilling example for potential whistleblowers through the abuse and torture of Bradley Manning."
President Obama has initiated a secret assassination programme, has publicly announced that he has given himself the power to include Americans on the list of people to be assassinated, and has attempted to assassinate at least one, Anwar al-Awlaki.
President Obama has maintained the power to secretly kidnap, imprison, rendition, or torture, and he has formalised the power to lawlessly imprison in an executive order. This also means the power to secretly imprison. There are some 1,700 prisoners outside the rule of law in Bagram alone.
The Obama administration is also busy going after reporters to discover their sources and convening grand juries in order to target journalists and news publishers.
One such case—the subpoena of author and former New York Times reporter James Risen involving a CIA leak—is still pending.
"Ironically—and quite likely in response to growing public criticism regarding the Obama administration's lack of transparency—heads of the five organizations gave their award to Obama in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House," the letter adds. "If the ceremony had been open to the press, it is likely that reporters would have questioned the organizations' proffered justification for the award, in contrast to the current reality."
(Then-candidate Barack Obama exits a car at Midway Airport in Chicago, Monday, Oct. 20, 2008: Alex Brandon/AP)