Monday, September 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton and the Flawed Concept of Open Government


You probably don't remember this but back in September 2014, President Obama spoke at the Open Government Partnership Meeting held at the United Nations Building in New York City:


Here are some key quotes in case you don't want to listen to the entire 11 minute speech:

"Three years ago, the United States and seven other nations launched this Open Government Partnership to represent the other side of that equation -- because when citizens demand progress, governments need to be able to respond.  And in a new millennium flush with technology that allows us to connect with a tweet or a text, citizens rightly demand more responsiveness, more openness, more transparency, more accountability from their governments. 

In just three short years, this partnership has grown from eight nations to 64.  It has helped to transform the way governments serve their citizens.  Together, we have made more than 2,000 commitments -- improving how governments serve more than 2 billion people worldwide.  More citizens are petitioning their governments online, and more citizens are participating directly in policymaking.  More entrepreneurs are using open data to innovate and start new businesses.  More sunlight is shining on how tax dollars are spent.  And more governments are partnering with civil society to find new ways to expose corruption and improve good governance.

Here in the United States, we’ve been trying to lead by example.  We’re working to open up and share more data with entrepreneurs so they can pursue the new innovations and businesses that create jobs.  We’re working to modernize our Freedom of Information Act process so that it’s easier for Americans to use, so that they can see the workings of their government.  And today, I’m proud to announce a series of new commitments to expand and broaden our open government efforts....

So the achievements of these first three years are an example of the kind of steady, step-by-step progress that is possible for people and countries around the world.  No country has all the answers.  No country has perfect practices.  So we have to continue to find new ways to learn from each other, to share best practices, and most importantly, to turn the commitments that we’ve made into real and meaningful action that improves the daily lives of our citizens.  I’m confident that if we do that, we can ensure that we’re living up to the basic truth that governments exist to serve the people, and not the other way around. 

Let me just close by saying this:  When we started this, we didn’t know if it was going to work.  And I could not be more proud to see the enormous changes that are taking place all around the globe -- in small increments sometimes.  It’s not flashy.  It doesn’t generate a lot of headlines.  But the work you’re doing here is a steady wave of better government, and a steady wave of stronger civil societies.  And over time, that means that not only will individual countries be stronger, and not only will the citizens of those countries have greater opportunity and are less prone to experience injustice, but that translates into a world that is more just and more fair.  And that’s the kind of world that I want to leave my children." (my bold)

Ironically, according to the U.S. Department of State, the Open Government Partnership is "...a global effort to make governments better. Citizens want more transparent, effective and accountable governments—with institutions that empower citizens and are responsive to their aspirations."  The Open Government Partnership was founded on September 20, 2011 with eight founding nations; Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Here is is President Obama's pledge at the time:

"We pledge to be more transparent at every level -- because more information on government activity should be open, timely, and freely available to people. We need to pledge to engage more of our citizens in decision-making -- because it makes government more effective and responsive. We pledge to implement the highest standards of integrity -- because those in power must serve the people, not themselves. And we pledge to increase access to technology -- because in this digital century, access to information is a right that is universal."

During the opening session on April 17 and 18, 2012 in Brasilia, Brazil, here's what then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to say about the concept of open government:

"In the 21st century, the United States is convinced that one of the most significant divisions among nations will not be north/south, east/west, religious, or any other category so much as whether they are open or closed societies. We believe that countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies will increasingly flourish. They will become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful." (my bold)

Now that we have that background, let's look at the most recent information on the Hillary Clinton personal server issue released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on September 23, 2016.  At that time, the FBI released 189 pages of interviews that they held with various members of Clinton's DoS staff, trying to get to the bottom of what really happened during Ms. Clinton's tenure at the top of the Department of State pyramid:.  With the concept of Open Government in mind, here is what some of the declassified, formerly Top Secret pages released to the public look like:




The first two pages tell us absolutely nothing.  From the third page of the three that I have attached, we don't even know who the FBI interviewed on December 31, 2015 by unnamed/redacted Special Agents.  We don't even know how long the person worked for Ms. Clinton and what role they played in her office.  This kind of information release makes it particularly difficult for those of us that are mere mortals to actually get an accurate sense of Ms. Clinton's guilt or innocence

Now, if that's the Obama Administration's concept of "Open Government", it looks like America's participation in the Open Government Partnership is little more that a farce.  So much for the President's statement that the government "exists to serve the people, and not the other way around."