Obama's black eye

He promised hope and transparency, but now wants to allow government lies. Plus, vote for Boston City Council
By EDITORIAL  |  November 2, 2011

President Barack Obama is going former president George W. Bush and ex-UK prime minister Tony Blair one better.

Bush and Blair both made massive falsehood an integral part of their governing strategies, lying to their citizens about why they waged war in Iraq.

The Obama administration has now transformed disgraceful ad-hoc practice into morally bankrupt government policy.

The Obama Justice Department says that it is lawful to lie to those seeking to obtain information or documents about public policy via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Dishonesty in government accessibility is nothing new, and since the days of Ronald Reagan, the federal government has been telling its citizens that some public documents within their rights to view just don't exist. Under the terms of the new-and-improved Obama rules, however, lying will become official policy: if the government decides that a public FOIA request is not in the national interest, instead of merely denying the request — as is now the practice — it can simply say, "We don't have those documents." Or "That information doesn't exist." Maybe even, "Documents? What documents? We don't have your stinking information!"

Why are we not surprised?

Some legal experts are trying to argue that, by codifying a policy that allows lying, the pointy-headed bureaucrats at Obama's Justice Department are doing the nation a favor.

The argument goes like this: by formalizing the option to lie, government policy, in fact, is becoming more transparent because those being denied information can surmise that the government is lying.

In other words, it is okay for the government to lie if the recipient of that lie realizes there is a good chance that he or she is being lied to.

If that is not pernicious doublespeak, then George Orwell did not write 1984.

Maybe it is time to start tarring and feathering government lawyers. If that were to happen, would the privilege to lie be extended to the vigilantes? After all, while their action was illegal, it was related to government business.

That this twisting of an open-government law to permit lies takes place in a presidential administration headed by a former constitutional-law professor gives the move an unspeakably rancid taste.

So foul is the prospect of an official government policy condoning lies that the liberal American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative Judicial Watch have joined together to denounce it. This temporary alliance is almost biblical in it proportions, akin with the lion's lying with the sheep.

The it-is-okay-to-lie policy is not only an affront to common sense, and common decency, it subverts an essential notion of our constitutional system because it would allow the executive branch to lie to the judiciary.

This is — pure and simple — an assault on constitutional government. Obama should be ashamed of himself. He must stop this move dead in its tracks. That is the simple and important truth.


Boston voters go to the polls on Tuesday, November 8, to elect at-large and district city councilors.

The Phoenix has endorsed the four incumbent at-large councilors: Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, Stephen Murphy, and Ayanna Pressley.

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