The Obama Administration is the most secretive and transparency-lacking Presidential Administration since Richard Nixon inhabited the White House, according to a new study based on interviews with top reporters and the heads of news gathering organizations in Washington.
The report, released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), reveals that reporters who routinely work with top Administration officials consider Obama’s White House to be unprecedented in its hostility toward the press.
“U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging open government, but he has fallen short of his promise. Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press,” the report begins. “Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government sources from speaking to journalists.”
The report notes that, in its war against leaks, the Obama Administration has subjected six government employees—among them, Edward Snowden—to felony criminal prosecutions since 2009, justifying the government’s actions under the 1917 Espionage Act. The government accused all of the employees of leaking classified information to the press.
Only three prosecutions of the same type took place under all U.S. Presidential Administrations prior to Obama, according to the report. The Obama Administration is currently investigating other leaks, which could lead to more Espionage Act prosecutions before the end of Obama’s tenure.
“I think we have a real problem,” New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane said in an interview for the report. “Most people are deterred by those leaks prosecutions. They’re scared to death. There’s a gray zone between classified and unclassified information, and most sources were in that gray zone. Sources are now afraid to enter that gray zone. It’s having a deterrent effect. If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.”
The report also details how the Obama Administration routinely uses in-house spokespeople and social media in an effort to circumvent and undermine the press.
“This is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered,” said David E. Sanger, veteran chief Washington correspondent of The New York Times, told researchers.
Read the full report here.