The Hot Wire on Transparency

“An Email Ain’t a Record?”
Governor Andrew Cuomo was under the gun to explain his administration’s policy of failing to save digital correspondence.  Office emails are routinely deleted and Cuomo communicates with his staff strictly using “Blackberry to Blackberry” messaging, which like the private files of J. Edgar Hoover are destroyed by protocol. 
The Huffington Post quotes Cuomo warning that government transparency should not be “overly fixated” on.  OK.  The George W. Bush administration caused an archival scandal by claiming to have accidentally erased 22 million internal emails, later “found,” and Bill Clinton averaged 14,000 emails a day.  Obama’s term promises to max out gazillions more savable digital micromessaging ripe for the archive.
New York State Archives acknowledges that attachments to emails are saved while the email itself is trashed.  “Email communications are not records and are therefore suitable for immediate destruction.”  The NY Times notes that the lack of the Governor’s digital paper trail amounts to an evasion of the Freedom of Information Act.Future Use wants to know, by what definition of records management ain’t an “email” a “record?”


“Fast and Furious”
The controversy of government transparency v. whistleblowers has found no lack of ink.  In June, Attorney General Eric Holder was pursuing an investigation into leaks to the New York Times of national security secrets where “a plot by the Yemen branch of Al Qaeda to bomb an airliner had been foiled because of penetration by a double agent, details about the joint American-Israeli computer virus called Stuxnet that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, and an account of Mr. Obama’s role in approving a ‘kill list’ of terrorism suspects for drone strikes.”
Meanwhile, the Attorney General is under the hot lights for withholding documents sought in a Congressional Oversight Committee.  “The Fast and Furious Scandal” gains it name from an operation led by:
“the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2009 and 2011… As part of the operation, ATF agents purposefully did not interdict more than 2,000 weapons they suspected of being purchased at Arizona gun shops by illegal buyers known as “straw purchasers”; agents hoped to later track them to a Mexican drug cartel.  ATF lost track of most of the firearms…. Two of the guns connected to the operation were found at a scene in the Arizona desert where a Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, was killed in December 2010.”
Holder claims the issue is just “an election year tactic,” yet it has become “only the third time in 30 years that a congressional panel has held an attorney general in contempt.”  Holder soon was spared criminal charges for disallowing access to documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Late last month Mitt Romney stumped on government leaks, of which he cast the Obama administration as the enabler.  But Obama has been severely criticized as having a bad track record on transparency, by both the leftand right.
“In April 2010, when then-press secretary Robert Gibbs announced that ‘this is the most transparent administration in the history of our country,’ Politico reported that ‘laughter broke out in the briefing room.’”
“Transparency” has become a post-Bailout buzzword.  The definition is woggle-eyed.  When the FBI seeks authority “that would compel internet service providers to turn over records of an individual’s internet activity for use in secretive FBI probes,” it is argued by the government as enforcement of transparency.  They want access to that information without hassle.  Yet when whistleblowers funnel classified information to the press or sites like WikiLeaks, the enforcement of government transparency is posed as a crime.
In the Fast and Furious scandal, AG Eric Holder treats Congress not much different than a whistleblower, both agents assumed to misuse the release of secret government information.  All in all, it is the job of the Attorney General to trudge and trench the police drama of records management.
The government has adhered to a beleaguered declassification program whose deadline is in 2013.  The Washington Post reported that “although the declassification effort appears certain to miss its deadline, the volume of material being classified jumped 20 percent in 2011. The oversight office cited better record-keeping as a reason for the recent increases.”

It has also been cited that “the number of people who held security clearances for access to classified information increased last year to a new reported high of more than 4.8 million persons as of October 1, 2011, a new intelligence community report to Congress said.”
FBI:                   “We want to see your phone records.” 
The People:        “Why?”
FBI:                   “Transparency.”
Whistleblower:   “Hey, take a look at this stuff!”
The Press:         “Why?”
Whistleblower:    “Transparency.”
Bill Keller, who was involved in the WikiLeaks brouhaha as senior editor of the NY Times, writes on the subject of leaks in The Leak Police.
Read an early Obama report on commitment to open government.

__________________________________“The Anti-Social Network”

Apropos, the search engine kracken called Google might have tweaked the idea of “transparency” regarding Apple users, and has been fined $22 million by the Federal Trade Commission for violating privacy.  As the Daily News noted, “the fine is a mere drop in the bucket for Google, which is worth more than $200 billion and made $12.2 billion in revenue last quarter.”


“Bad Projects Project”

Documents obtained by the Daily News reveal that the New York Housing Authority “works at a snail’s pace spending millions to repair aging apartments.”  The documents, prepared by business strategy adviser Boston Consulting Group, are said to confirm a habit of wasting government money by the largest residential landlord in town.  Both Congress and the Fifth Column are calling for the public release of the docs.  Maybe NYCHA could arrange to borrow some scratch from Google.

Governor Alfred E. Smith Houses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *