In the interest of full disclosure

Opaque reasoning is thwarting transparency in government

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It may be easier to get a mug shot of a foreign terrorist than one of an Augusta criminal headed for federal prison.

That's got to change.

Get ready for this. Your head may explode when you read it:

This newspaper asked federal authorities for a current mug shot of Augusta "investor" Walter Marion Williams, who reported to a federal prison in Montgomery, Ala., last Tuesday to begin a nine-year sentence for stealing $1.7 million from more than a dozen friends and relatives. Williams had promised to invest the funds, and took people's nest eggs on that basis only to use the money for his own comfort and adventures, including gambling trips and fun vacations.

Here's what may light the fuse leading to your brain: Federal officials denied the request because release of Williams' photo "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

You can't make this stuff up. This man bilked Augustans out of $1.7 million, and we're in danger of invading his privacy by running a photo of him?

Now, it may not be important to you whether the media have current photos of criminals (we ended up running an outdated one of Williams). But think about it some more.

For one thing, who's to say whether there might be other victims of Williams' scams out there unknown to authorities and who might recognize their tormentor's image?

And if not in this particular case, victims of crimes in other cases might also come forward after seeing an offender's face in the media.

In addition, the principle may be the most important thing: There is no reason for our government to be hiding facts and photos of criminals in our midst, especially long after a case has been adjudicated and the responsible party shipped off to prison.

Moreover, whither this administration's vaunted promises of unprecedented transparency?

Nate Jones is apparently wondering the same thing. The Freedom of Information Act coordinator for the National Security Archive lamented in a magazine article that his agency's requests for information from other federal agencies are often met with "disappointing" obfuscation.

"We at the Archive have yet to see the government's full embrace of this 'presumption of disclosure'," Jones wrote -- adding that only 13 of some 90 federal agencies made any changes in transparency after President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder directed them to in a memo at the start of the Obama presidency.

"All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open government," the memo said.

Mission not accomplished.

In fact, the Associated Press reported last March that there was a nearly 50 percent increase in federal agencies' denials of records requests under the Freedom of Information Act in Obama's first year in office.

In short, despite public pronouncements to the contrary -- "President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history," wrote Macon Phillips, White House director of New Media, in January 2009 -- the Obama administration has been more secretive than the previous one.

The Chronicle has appealed the decision in the Williams case. We hope the U.S. Department of Justice will see fit to reverse its position and act according to the president's lofty words.

But problems with transparency are, sadly enough, alive and well at all levels of government, even in 2010 America.

One mug shot may not seem important. But rights, like canyons, are eroded a little at a time.

Comments (32) Add comment
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sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 08/15/10 - 01:18 am
0
0
Does the chronicle wish to

Does the chronicle wish to become that trashy 99 cent mug shot rag they sell at convenience stores?

Jay Voorhees
0
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Jay Voorhees 08/15/10 - 01:32 am
0
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grouse - This is the

grouse - This is the administration that is in power and is attempting to make our lives difficult.

sigraci - I think they explained the reasons for wanting a current photo very well. Perhaps you should read it again.

Now, will one of you explain why Obama lied when he said his administration would be the "most open and transparent one in the history of America"?

There is enough tangible and anecdotal evidence to prove that they are quite the opposite.

HTN007
19
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HTN007 08/15/10 - 01:39 am
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"Moreover, whither this

"Moreover, whither this administration's vaunted promises of unprecedented transparency?"............as long as we are talking about this administration's promises of transparency, what about starting at the top with Obama producing his birth certificate? Himself and not some surrogate agency in Honolulu? Why is it that a lawsuit has been filed in an attempt to obtain it when Obama could just produce it and be done with all of this? Is this what he means by transparency?

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 08/15/10 - 05:22 am
0
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No matter what laws the obama

No matter what laws the obama breaks or what liberties he removes, the willing worshipers will always defend him, all the way to slavery.
I like it when these color-voters post. It gives more fuel to the burn to remove this presidential excrement and his supporters from office ..... sooner rather than later.

NewHere
0
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NewHere 08/15/10 - 06:20 am
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Waste of ink and space, nice

Waste of ink and space, nice joke from the aces.

concernednative
28
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concernednative 08/15/10 - 06:33 am
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I would advise the ACES to

I would advise the ACES to focus on local and state issues only for a week or so. These Obama bashing editorials are making me question the staff's sanity I long ago realized they didn't have any integrity.

dashiel
176
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dashiel 08/15/10 - 07:14 am
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Right on, Concernednative!

Right on, Concernednative! They are starting to remind me of Nixon on Dilantin. I understand that their Fuehrer must be furious (when was he not?) but his ghostwriters need a xanax and a sip of Sisco.

TheFederalist
1
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TheFederalist 08/15/10 - 07:27 am
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How interesting! The liberals

How interesting! The liberals are so trained, like attack dogs, to always lash out at anything even remotely conservative, that now they are even blasting columns that merely mention his own words! Wow! Little liberal attack drones, or mindless obamatrons, that charge out screaming hysterically and attack the ACES, even when they were simply talking about a local issue, and comparing it to the exact words uttered by this POTUS. I am ROTFL dudes! Chill out liberals! Retract your claws and take a breath, and explain to me why you are so defensive? Just like darth's backing of the mosque at ground zero, that he supports. He even said so! Or, perhaps, like the transparency issue, he was lying? Again? Well, maybe you liberals need to rush to his defense here too, as he is certainly taking an enormous amount of flak for his misguided position. No matter. He will be neutered in November, rendered harmless, and unable to hurt us anymore. Then we can spend the next two years debating if he really is the worst POTUS in American history! I can't wait to debate!

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 08/15/10 - 07:30 am
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Burn baby burn. November

Burn baby burn. November draws near. Don't let anyone forget who this nation's biggest enemy is.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 08/15/10 - 07:45 am
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dashiel, maybe all of those

dashiel, maybe all of those drugs you recommend explains why you think your fuehrer is infallible.

Riverman1
90290
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Riverman1 08/15/10 - 07:46 am
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A current photo sounds like a

A current photo sounds like a simple enough request. What happens is the bureaucratic tangles of federal agencies can't get anything right. The Chronicle will prevail on this matter. Thanks to them for pointing out the ineptness of the Feds. It doesn't matter who is in charge, government workers never get it right.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 08/15/10 - 07:49 am
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NewHere, what a brilliant and

NewHere, what a brilliant and imaginative post you repeat every day. How are those moving plans coming along? "Hope and change"

dashiel
176
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dashiel 08/15/10 - 07:53 am
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The majority has not

The majority has not forgotten, nor will history forget the ineptitude, misdirection and damage this nation's biggest enemy did before Obama even put his hand on the Bible.

GaPatriot
0
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GaPatriot 08/15/10 - 08:01 am
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dashiel, he actually put his

dashiel, he actually put his hand on a "Koran" but they wouldn't release that photo either.

dashiel
176
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dashiel 08/15/10 - 08:04 am
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Cliff, only xanax is a drug.

Cliff, only xanax is a drug. I've never taken it myself, but according to a hit & run suspect, Sisco intensifies its effect just like coffee does Coca-Cola, only the reverse. Here's looking at you, kid. I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect hormoe-eeee...

dashiel
176
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dashiel 08/15/10 - 08:08 am
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I never knew Abraham Lincoln

I never knew Abraham Lincoln was a Muslim, either.

chascush
0
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chascush 08/15/10 - 08:08 am
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grouse, 'Were mug shots

grouse, 'Were mug shots available during the Bush or previous administrations? If not, then way single out this administration?'
'the Obama administration has been more secretive than the previous one.'
You can read can't you!

dashiel
176
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dashiel 08/15/10 - 08:17 am
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As for the convenience of

As for the convenience of getting a mug shot off a Web site, maybe news gatherers should move their own mugs away from their screens occasionally. I fail to see much difference between them and us news readers. Pseudo-journalism is pseudo-journalism.

getalife
4
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getalife 08/15/10 - 08:25 am
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Good article. I think the

Good article. I think the request of a criminal's photo is not unreasonable. As the article stated, other victims may come forward if there was a photo of Williams. This is the same if a photo of a rapist or murderer is posted, so other victims may come forward. Hopefully all of this will be corrected in November 2010 and 2012.

TheFederalist
1
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TheFederalist 08/15/10 - 09:28 am
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Wow...again the twisting of

Wow...again the twisting of an issue to suit the liberal needs of the poster. Well, I for one prefer pseudo-journalism to psycho-journalism, which is the only thing coming from the left these days. Here again we have a perfect example. Here again those that are totally incapable of arguing the premise of the article, instead fall back, as liberals always do, on blaming GW for all their ill fortune. Nothing but loads of tiresome and redundant rhetoric that always fails to address the topic at hand, and merely tries to change the subject to one that they are much more comfortable with, bashing Bush, bashing Bush, bashing Bush, ad nauseum! What ever happened to the topic here?TRANSPARANCY...remember? The most hilarious thing is that bashing bush is not enough, as one here is actually now trying to bash Nixon too!! OMG...get real, please! Well, if it makes you feel less inadequate to try these pathetic ploys to desperately avoid the issue, then ok. Blame it on Lincoln, if it makes you feel any better...Oh..wait...you already did that..by labeling him a muslim. Oh well, so much for that. Please, continue on, as I am all atwitter just anticipating who you will blame next. Perhaps, dare ye, George Washington himself? I know you are up to the challenge, as you are absolutely adept in the fine art of blaming anyone but darth hussein, so have at it, and give it your best shot!!

Tigger_The_Tiger
0
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Tigger_The_Tiger 08/15/10 - 08:59 am
0
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I notice that all the

I notice that all the liberals are attacking the AC......not what they wrote. Attack with facts if you can............give it a try.

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 08/15/10 - 09:07 am
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LOL...yet you just keep on

LOL...yet you just keep on reading....................

Tigger_The_Tiger
0
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Tigger_The_Tiger 08/15/10 - 09:10 am
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They attack the AC and talk

They attack the AC and talk about what a "rag" it is, but every post they make is revenue in their pocket........keep up the good work.

Riverman1
90290
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Riverman1 08/15/10 - 09:52 am
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I really can't see why anyone

I really can't see why anyone would attack the Chronicle for taking on the Feds and demanding a current photo of this swindler.

Tigger_The_Tiger
0
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Tigger_The_Tiger 08/15/10 - 10:17 am
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Riverman..........because

Riverman..........because it's not in lock step with what their Fuhrer says.

Tigger_The_Tiger
0
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Tigger_The_Tiger 08/15/10 - 12:20 pm
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What is your obsession with

What is your obsession with awards and others approval, onlyinags?

curly123053
5130
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curly123053 08/15/10 - 01:01 pm
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After the November landslide

After the November landslide comes the impeachment proceedings !

ameliaf
0
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ameliaf 08/15/10 - 05:03 pm
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I am confused. Here is one

I am confused. Here is one quote from the article that seems to imply that more agencies under Obama are being more "transparent."
"We at the Archive have yet to see the government's full embrace of this 'presumption of disclosure'," Jones wrote -- adding that only 13 of some 90 federal agencies made any changes in transparency after President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder directed them to in a memo at the start of the Obama presidency.

And another quote seems to say the Obama administration is doing worse. Here is that one. "In fact, the Associated Press reported last March that there was a nearly 50 percent increase in federal agencies' denials of records requests under the Freedom of Information Act in Obama's first year in office."

I agree with AC about the mug shot, but it doesn't seem like a big potato issue. Maybe a small bite of a small potato issue. The big issue is bigger, real stuff like hiding illegal monitoring of phone calls. I mean, a whole editorial because they couldn't get a mug shot?

Anyone got in data on what kinds of info was asked for from which agency and frequency of denials based on that? Is there really is a story here or is this blowing smoke to create the illusion of a fire?

Still, I expected more from the Obama administration.

justus4
109
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justus4 08/15/10 - 07:55 pm
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The article fails to
Unpublished

The article fails to accurately comprehend the workings of governmental agencies, because it seems the governor of that state which appoints, elects, ordains, or gives positions to those individuals who supposely denied a FOIA. How on earth can the US President be faulted for failures at the state level of government? What job is that of governor? If U think the CINC and not a state governor is more responsible in establishing "best practices" for adherence to federal guidelines, then U are being motivated by something other than facts - look to your state house, not Washington.

chascush
0
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chascush 08/15/10 - 08:24 pm
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Hussein and Moo-chele were on

Hussein and Moo-chele were on vacation again this week-end. I guess the economy is not so bad when you have the taxpayers too pick-up the tap. The piece of excrement better enjoy while he can.

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