Obama’s 100 days: Day 2, Jan. 22

    The youth vote was instrumental in securing Barack Obama the win on Nov. 4, 2008. But with the President comfortably settled in at the White House, this generation of voters and supporters of candidate Obama must learn to become the critics of President Obama. By blogging Obama’s first 100 days in office, we hope to remind the new administration that just because the election is over, that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped paying attention.

    Day 2 — Jan. 22, 2009: There will be secrets

    Press access at the White House

    After making lofty promises of openness, the new administration has already started making rules about the information the press could report, where they could bring cameras and what kinds of questions they could ask.

    The first event of concern was when only four print reporters were allowed in at the re-swearing in ceremony in the White House. TV cameras and photojournalists weren’t allowed to document the ceremony. A picture of the event by a White House photographer was distributed to the press, but several media outlets — including AP, Reuters and the Agence France-Presse — refused to run the photo “because of the dispute,” according to the AP.

    After a background briefing in the White House press room by a senior Administration official, reporters were told they couldn’t print the name of the official. Perhaps deservedly, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs slipped in his press briefing, saying, “We had Greg help you guys understand a little bit of that.” According to Time, there aren’t many senior officials named Greg.

    It seems inevitable that a problem with secrets will befall the Obama administration, as it has with every group ever in power. No matter how many words were wasted during the campaign on promises of openness, reality turns out to be much less forgiving.

    The end of torture? Maybe not

    On Thursday, executive orders signed by Obama closed Guantanamo, called on the CIA to get rid of all their black site, secret prisons in foreign countries and ordered both the military and paramilitary groups (such as the CIA, who had taken the initiative on counter-terrorism operations abroad) to stick to the unclassified Army Field Manual. This document makes it illegal to torture detainees, deprive them of food and water, or cause them severe mental anguish.

    All of this is good, of course. Yet, CNN reports:

    In a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, the man nominated to be the director of intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, said the government would look at revising the Army Field Manual on interrogation rules, which leaves open the possibility that different techniques can be added for use by intelligence officers and not be publicized.

    Getting rid of the Bush administration’s legally hazy, oftentimes unconstitutional brand of dealing with detainees is a step forward. Reformulating the loopholes to allow the Obama administration to keep classified — and so away from the inquiring, curious minds of reporters — their own rules about interrogation is counterproductive and sadly, different only in degree but not in kind from the Bush doctrine.

    Bonus: The compromise that let Obama keep his BlackBerry after a series of security updates is good news for the brand. Marketing experts have estimated that Obama’s implicit endorsement of the phone could be worth as much as $50 million, according to the Times (London).

    The use of e-mail and instant messaging had upset two of the most humorless groups of Obama staff: the lawyers and the Secret Service. White House lawyers feared possible (or inevitable) embarrassment when staffers’ personal IMs end up in the press. The Secret Service worries that a BlackBerry could be hacked and its GPS used to locate the president within a few feet. E-mails could also be intercepted by rogue forces to track down the president.

    Go back to day 1. | Go forward to day 3.


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