In a very wordy, hollow words that is, public response, Danielle Brian of Project on Government Oversight (POGO) not only adamantly declines to rescind Obama’s Transparency Award given to him in secrecy, but she actually praises the President as one who has achieved more openness than any other US president, thus deserving of an award given to him in a secret ceremony. Further, Ms. Brian considers this petition and signatories’ efforts a waste of time and a distraction. Here are a few excerpts from POGO’s public response to the petition and all signatories:
It’s undeniable that the Obama administration has achieved more openness than any other recent president.
Of course, the fact that this rescheduled meeting wasn’t on the President’s calendar made it an easy joke. When we discovered this, we described it as “crazy stupid.” But the fact that the meeting wasn’t open to the press didn’t strike me as unusual—I have meetings all the time with policymakers that are not open to the press.
So no, I do not regret taking the opportunity to meet with the President and get him to discuss the prosecutions of national security whistleblowers, and I am not going to withdraw our support for the award.
Public debate and discourse is often healthy. But there is so much to be done to safeguard our rights and expand openness—our community just doesn’t have the luxury to waste time on distractions.
It appears as if the people at POGO didn’t even bother to read the petition and the cited facts. But I believe they know the facts. They know them too well. Yet, despite all these cited facts, despite all the cited actions taken by this President and his administration (yes, last time I checked presidents were held liable for their appointees’ practices!) against transparency and whistleblowers, despite all the measures taken by this President and his administration towards unprecedented levels of secrecy, POGO deemed, and still deems, this president worthy of a Transparency Award; in a closed secret meeting not even logged in White House Schedule-Records.
Further, maybe even worse, despite repeated appeals, despite more than 25 whistleblowers’ implorations, despite more than 20 pro-transparency and pro-liberties organizations’ requests, despite the outcry from the public and journalist communities, POGO insists on the non-existent merits of this award, and it refuses to acknowledge it as a very dumb mistake; and adamantly refuses to take it back. And finally, POGO considers you, me, and everyone else on this petition a group that has the ‘luxury to waste time,’ and calls this petition a ‘distraction.’
Let me address a few ludicrous claims and positions presented by POGO:
Obama Should Not Be Held Responsible for His Administration’s Practices
POGO shields and defends Obama by asking people to blame and go after the agencies, not the President. They put forth a ludicrous and warped defense by claiming that presidents should not be held liable for the practices of the agencies headed by the president’s handpicked appointees.
First, this is akin to saying Hitler didn’t personally participate in annihilation, internment, torturing and killing; those were practiced by his military and police force, thus, he should not be blamed. This is similar to arguing that Abu-Ghraib practices and scandals were limited to a handful of lower-rank military personnel, and those above them with the authority and responsibility should have been absolved from any accountability. POGO says the awful anti-transparency and anti-whistleblower practices are implemented by the agencies and the bureaucracy, and the President does not have any power over them, so leave the President alone, give him awards, and go chase after his employees.
Secondly, POGO’s ludicrous position in absolving the President from his administration and agencies’ anti-transparency and anti-liberties practices reeks with hypocrisy and double talk. This is the same NGO that consistently (and justifiably) blamed the Bush-Cheney office for atrocious practices implemented by the agencies under them.
And finally, based on POGO’s argument we should not bother electing presidents, since presidents and presidential powers have nothing to do with the executive branch and its practices. POGO has declared presidential authority and responsibility moot.
Words Speak Much Louder than Actions & The Award Was Given Based on Obama’s Words
POGO, with a straight face, is telling the public to disregard Obama’s record and pay attention only to his words. This is like letting a serial rapist pedophile who happens to be an author of books on ‘protecting children against pedophiles’ go free despite damning evidence proving him guilty of raping and molesting children. This is similar to absolving the Catholic priests that were found guilty of child molestation because they spoke the right words on Sunday.
POGO even goes further and engages in double-talk and actions similar to the President himself. It is disingenuous for Danielle Brian to claim on one hand that it’s not Obama’s fault that the whistleblowers are being prosecuted, when she, Brian, in her own blog said that when she brought up anti-whistleblowers practices and the Drake prosecution during the “Transparency Award” meeting, Obama said straight up that he disagreed with her position.
On one hand POGO asserts that ‘there are many things to bemoan in the Obama administration’s implementation of its open government goals,’ yet, on the other hand, they claim that Obama deserves and had actually earned the transparency award. POGO does not refute the facts and cases cited in our petition on Obama’s record as the worst president on whistleblowers and transparency, yet, they find this completely irrelevant to their decision to present this President with an undeserved mockery transparency award.
Do As We Say But Don’t Do As We Do!
Interestingly, as an organization funded by millions of dollars from special interest corporations-foundations that engages in issuing hundreds of in words-only cosmetic petition campaigns, POGO considers the petition signed and backed by numerous noted government whistleblowers, organizations, and activists, ‘A Waste of Time,’ and a major (and inconvenient) ‘Distraction.’ Danielle Brian actually stresses that petitions are useless, and tells people not to waste time going after Obama’s transparency award by campaigning with this petition. If POGO truly believes that then why do they spend millions of dollars, and high six-figure salaries for petitions to Congress and agencies, rather than actually supporting government whistleblowers with badly needed legal advice and help?
Further, for a handsomely-funded organization that feigns transparency advocacy, POGO and their primary funders saw no problem with plotting and executing the transparency award in secret, without any consultation with the related community of whistleblowers and activists, and despite the objections from real transparency advocates. Even now, with all the outcry and objections from the real transparency advocates, activists and whistleblowers, they bluntly reject taking back their unearned, undeserved, and unwarranted award. And what does this say? They refuse, while the entire government whistleblowers community, transparency and liberties activists and organizations, the majority of the Americans, even the media, object to this mockery of an award and want to see it taken back.
Here is a well-articulated media response to POGO’s transparency award given to Obama:
It is not hyperbole to say that the Obama administration is waging an all-out war against transparency and whistleblowing (and the transparency groups who obsequiously awarded Obama a transparency award [one accepted in secret] are as disgraceful as the five Norwegians who awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize as he continues to do things like his). The persecution of WikiLeaks — for engaging in the crux of investigative journalism — along with anyone who supports it is one particularly dangerous weapon in that war. And anyone who defies or resists that war deserves, and will need, ample public support.
Who is POGO really representing? Who are the ones behind the scene that override the entire transparency advocacy community? For a self-proclaimed transparency advocacy organization POGO surely keeps and protects that answer as a ‘secret.’
And finally, for an organization that claims to be watchdog, advocacy and public action campaign oriented, POGO surely has insulted and attacked all signatories to this petition by openly calling our action a waste of time and futile.
I can list many other contradictory, hypocrisy-ridden, and illogical points from the ludicrously wordy insult-response issued by POGO. I will not. The facts in the petition, the noted sponsors and signatories, and the number of public signatories, and the action and position of these organizations in opposition are self-explanatory.
Obviously this petition and the cited facts don’t seem to be getting through their heads (the same heads that equate President Obama with a champion of transparency!). You may want to contact them directly and let them know how and what you feel about their award and fictional transparency champion President and his practices. Here is their contact information:
Tel: (202) 347-1122
Blog Site: http://pogoblog.typepad.com
Media Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
*** This article represents the views of this author and not any organization, group or individual.