American voters had a lot on their minds when they elected Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as the 44th president of the United States. The Pew Research Center's exit poll found that the economy, Iraq and terrorism were all top concerns among the electorate. But despite how troubling the news about these topics has been, it is actually what Americans don't know about these key issues that is most disturbing.
Even the most informed citizens simply have no way of knowing exactly what is going within their own government. This is because the Bush administration has been secretive in the extreme. Those governing this country must become more open if they are to regain the American people's failing trust. Thus, Obama should work vigorously to bring transparency to the White House as soon as he takes office.
Specifically, there is much about the ongoing economic crisis, the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism that the Bush administration has failed to reveal.
First, regarding the economy, Bloomberg has reported that "the Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral."
This is unacceptable. Bush administration officials promised Congress that the actions they would take to bail out faltering financial institutions would be transparent enough to be subject to reasonable congressional oversight. But there seems to be barely any accountability present in the current situation.
Without adequate oversight, there is simply no reason for the American people to believe that what is being done is actually in the nation's best interest. It's entirely possible that nothing untoward is going on, but top administration officials such as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have worked in the private sector with many of the executives of businesses now receiving federal assistance. Of course it's good to have figures with an intimate understanding of how corporate America works managing the government's response to the economic crisis, but allowing crucial decisions to be made in secret backroom sessions in which conflicts of interest may abound is utter madness. We simply need to know what's going on.
Second, regarding Iraq, many unanswered questions remain about the intelligence to which the president had access in the lead up to the war. During the recently concluded election season, many Republicans made the entirely reasonable argument that the future was more pressing than the past, that Americans should consider which candidate was best equipped to manage the situation in Iraq as it stood rather than debating whether the invasion itself was justified. But now that the country has chosen Obama for that job, it is once again time to look into how the war began. If pre-war intelligence was deliberately spun to justify an invasion regardless of the strength of evidence for the existence of weapons of mass destruction, the public deserves to know.
Third, regarding the fight against terrorism, the Bush administration has repeatedly insisted that the extreme measures it has taken in its efforts to protect the country have been fully justified. However, administration officials have also refused to reveal the exact nature of such controversial policies such as the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used against terrorism suspects or the full extent of the warrantless wiretapping of Americans' electronic communications. Apparently, everyone is supposed to believe that the government doesn't torture people or engage in inappropriate domestic spying simply because the president says so. That's not good enough.
Of course, much of this information is likely to come to light eventually regardless of what bama does when he's in charge. In an interview with the British newspaper the Guardian, famed investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has indicated that he has numerous sources lined up to spill the beans to him after Bush leaves office. Too many people know too much to avoid major leaks given the importance of the questions that need to be answered.
But Obama could do a great deal to help the situation. He should release all information regarding these controversial issues unless its continued secrecy is legitimately required for national security purposes.