Obama: The anti-transparency president

Brack Obama (AFP Photo / Jim Watson )
Candidate Barack Obama pledged to be the most transparent administration in history. President Obama aggressively uses his authority to crack down on federal employees who leak information to expose government wrongdoing and security threats.

In Obama’s two years in the White House his Justice Department has filed criminal charges in five individual cases involving leaked classified materials and he is now pondering a legal assault on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The last two years of five cases and the possibility of more are a start contrast to the previous 40 years of American history, where the US government brought about only three such cases, a report by POLITICO indicated.

The administration argues the cases are necessary to protect national secrets and those who insist on whistle blowing should do so through proper government legal channels. However, that approach likely pushes many away who fear repercussion internally.

Open government and transparence advocates argue Obama has become a hardliner, actively perusing anyone who dares challenge his status quo. The notion of transparence has faded, as those who see wrongdoing becoming increasingly afraid to speak up.

Obama once called for government to be open and visible to the people it was designed to be accountable to, but his criminalization of whistle blowing is doing just the opposite.

It is not to me a good sign when government chooses to go after leakers using the full force of criminal law when there are other ways to handle these situations,” Jane Kirtley, a University of Minnesota law professor and former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told POLITICO.

One of the most well known instances of government crackdown on leakers can be seen in Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused on leaking classified military and State Department documents to WikiLeaks.

Recently, Manning was charged with 22 new charges, including 'aiding the enemy' which carries with it the possibility of the death penalty.

Obama Department of Defense officials have claimed information leaked to WikiLeaks contained the names and personal details of informants and others who once cooperated with US military forces in Afghanistan, possible endangering their lives and assisting enemy forces.

The increase in charges further alienates Obama from his transparency pledges of the past.