Report: White House won’t post president’s policy directives

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Calling the move “a stark reminder of the incoherence of the Obama Administration’s transparency policy,” Steven Aftergood reported on the Secrecy News blog this week that presidential policy directives are being withheld from the White House website.

According to Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, those who wish to see the directives must rely on outside sources, such as FAS.

Aftergood said that although federal agencies have cited the White House’s non-disclosure policy in refusing to release policy directives, at least one agency, the Homeland Security Department, has published a directive online.

“Where secrecy has prevailed, unauthorized disclosures have also helped to fill the void in public access,” Aftergood added, citing two examples of directives that have been obtained and published by non-government parties.

Although the White House has published no presidential policy directives on its website, it has published a presidential study directive, Aftergood said. [Explaining the difference in the two types of directives, FAS says: “directives that are used to promulgate Presidential decisions on national security matters are designated Presidential Policy Directives (PPDs). Directives that are used to initiate policy review procedures are called Presidential Study Directives.”]

“This otherwise unremarkable step tends to confirm that there is no serious question of principle or privilege at stake in the decision to publish such directives,” Aftergood concluded. “Instead, the Obama Administration’s broader anti-transparency policy on presidential directives appears to be driven by an old-fashioned imperative of secrecy for its own sake.”

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