A federal judge has ordered the Obama administration to disclose a foreign aid directive that it disseminated widely within the government but has refused to release to the public.
The Center for Effective Government sued through the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the 2010 directive, the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, but the Obama White House refused to release it. It cited executive privilege, despite the fact that the directive had already been widely distributed within the administration and Obama himself had discussed it in public remarks.
U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle determined in the suit that the administration’s arguments were flimsy and novel. Because past presidents have not come into office promising to deliver the “most transparent administration in history,” only to turn paranoia into government policy.
The Obama administration is evidently staffed with people who watch too many spy movies. It asserted in court that the directive should only be accessible to those in his administration with a “need to know.” Judge Huvelle wryly notes that “need to know” is not an actual legal standard for anything. “The government has not, even after plaintiff raised the issue…defined what ‘need to know’ means,” the judge wrote in her opinion. Presumably, Attorney General Eric Holder authorized government lawyers to try the “need to know” angle in court.
The judge also took aim at Obama’s habit of keeping too many secrets.
“The government appears to adopt the cavalier attitude that the President should be permitted to convey orders throughout the Executive Branch without public oversight…to engage in what is in effect governance by ‘secret law.'”