As the Obama administration prepares to conduct a second round of kinetic military action, they continue to keep Americans in the dark by providing insultingly redacted documents to requests under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). These show how far removed the American people have been from their government for the past 12 years. The "most transparent administration in history" is a perfect example of how power and fear of losing it continue to overwhelm both parties in America. As a result, they have continued the expansive security state and codified their stranglehold on the information they try to control. In the age of the internet, this is a losing battle. Let's take a look at 4 example redactions, and try to figure out what we could do with this redacted information.
1. The Contract for a Superintendent of Farmington Public Schools
This contract has been redacted all the way to Section 4, where it states the duties of the superintendent. It is then further redacted, but leaves us the Vacation and Holiday portions. We get clippings of information about the superintendent's benefits and salaries, and we are left with one final line on the second to last page:
“The School District will pay such membership dues for organizations as are required, directed or permitted by the school board.”
While I'm sure information like attendance policies is too dangerous for us to disseminate, what we could do with this document is limited. We might be able to formulate a couple of quiz questions for HR majors, or create a conspiracy theory that all superintendents are in a cabal to run our schools into the ground. That would explain the school district paying for membership dues. If the latter is true, then maybe they do have a reason to block that information from us.
2. The New Jersey Transit Rail Operations Hurricane Plan
This redaction lives by the motto: Go big, or go home. The entire document has been redacted in black. You would think that something that impacts the lives of many during an emergency would be an decent thing for the public to understand. They state it was redacted for "security purposes," but the rationale for complete censorship for this document might be fear of political backlash while the East Coast rebuilds from Hurricane Sandy. Since there's no way to be certain, I want to suggest that the NJ Transit evacuation plan was probably lacking in key areas that could have made the damage less likely. Instead of withholding this information from us, how about we learn from our mistakes so that citizens are more prepared next time?
3. 3. D.C. Parks and Recreation Email
In this example, we have three separate requests for the same information that got three different responses. The original email discussed reviewing payments to the Kellie Williams Program, which provides students the chance to produce a television show for Comcast Cable Local-On Demand. Why was a contact phone number censored on one version, the name of the project on another, and the whole document on a third version? The information apparently isn't sensitive to the point where the request was rejected. This is what happens when the government is too large to function efficiently: it can't even keep things in the same department consistent. If our government can't agree on what should and shouldn't be redacted, we should be concerned about the information they use to make decisions.
4. Sioux Falls: Poet Project Voyager Amortization Template
The last example details loans being offered by the Department of Energy for "Projects Employing Innovative Energy Technology," which essentially means loans offered to special interests. The request returned a document that could only be of use to a first year engineering student who needed to learn how to make an official looking template for a 101 class. Even then, the Christmas-color scheme could definitely use some work. Since about half of the companies that President Obama's green energy initiatives supported went bankrupt, the information that was censored was probably embarassing and showed how in bed with the green lobby the federal government has become. The redaction of financial information is common, but tax payers should have access to how their money is being spent.
This year has not been easy for the federal government and how it handles information. The NSA, AP, and Benghazi scandals are all examples where information has been withheld from us because the government feared the backlashes. Those situations are far more serious than the examples analyzed in this article, and yet the government makes an incompetent attempt to censor innocuous information from us. Americans should realize that this is nothing more than another cog in the machine of the surveillance state; and another example of how broken, flawed and inept our federal government truly is.