New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson says that Barack Obama’s White House is the “most secretive White House” that she has ever covered.
Abramson made her remarks in an interview with Al Jazeera America that will air Sunday night:
It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering…I dealt directly with the Bush White House when they had concerns that stories we were about to run put the national security under threat. But, you know, they were not pursuing criminal leak investigations. The Obama administration has had seven criminal leak investigations. That is more than twice the number of any previous administration in our history. It’s on a scale never seen before. This is the most secretive White House that, at least as a journalist, I have ever dealt with.
The Times has been directly affected by the Obama administration’s efforts to pursue leakers, even from before they were in office. Times reporter James Risen is currently fighting to avoid testifying against a former CIA official who is accused of leaking Iran policy information to Risen, which he used in his 2006 book.
When Abramson was asked whether the crackdown comes directly from Obama, she said, “I would think that it would have to. I don’t know that, but certainly enough attention has been focused on this issue that, if he departed from the policies of his government, I think we’d know that at this point.”
And Abramson isn’t alone in her opinion.
Chuck Todd, Chief White House Correspondent for NBC News, told Joe Scarborough this morning that the Obama White House is “very controlling,” and “selectively secretive:”
They’re very controlling. I mean that’s probably the best word to use. Okay? And the thing is that I sort of look at this and take the long view. And I get it that every White House wants to control their own message, and they want to control access, and decide what’s news and what’s not. But it is amazing to me that this White House does get obsessed when something “leaks.” They seem to be sometimes more worried ‘Well, who did it?,’ ‘How did this get out?,’ rather than dealing with the story itself.
Todd added that he thinks the Obama White House believes that they aren’t doing anything more or less than the Bush White House did, and that they are using technology to get around the press “in a way that we’ve never seen any other White House do…”
When you take that, you take the access limitations, you throw in the aggressive attempts to prosecute leakers, and I think it paints the larger picture that Jill Abramson was trying to point which was ‘Boy, these guys are controlling, these guys are secretive.’ But I would go to your point—they’re selectively secretive. Obviously, they’re not as secretive when they don’t think it’s a political benefit.
The media may not be feeling buyer’s remorse when it comes to Obama, but based on Abramson’s and Todd’s comments, they have surely been greatly disappointed by the man who promised the most transparent administration in history.