Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.” — Lord Acton
Since being inaugurated in 2009, President Barack Obama has issued 30 Presidential Policy Directives (PPD), 19 of which he has ordered to be kept secret from Congres and the American people.
Barack Obama campaigned for president promising to usher in an era of transparency in government. That promise stands next to “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” in the Barack Obama Presidential Hall of Shame.
No less than USA Today called attention to these secret orders in an article published on June 24. The article explained: Against the State: An ... Best Price: $4.62 Buy New $9.95 (as of 03:15 EDT - Details)
Of the 30 PPDs issued by Obama, 19 have not been released. And for 11 of those, the White House has not disclosed even the subject of the order.
“It’s not only the public that doesn’t have copies. It’s also Congress that doesn’t have copies,” Aftergood said. “It’s a domain of largely unchecked presidential authority. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it’s lacking in independent oversight.”
A Government of Wolves... Best Price: $1.53 Buy New $6.00 (as of 03:45 EDT - Details) But they have the same legal force as an executive order, forming a body of largely secret law, said Harold Relyea, a political scientist who advised Congress on national security directives before retiring from the Congressional Research Service.
“The difference is that while executive orders are public by law — they must be published in the Federal Register to be effective — PPDs are not,” he said. “It is a kind of secret law. People have to obey it. But it’s a directive that can allocate money, direct people or take a course of action.”
Lest anyone believe that the practice of ruling by this particular form of fiat began with the current occupant of the Oval Office, theUSA Today provides a bit of historical context for the documents:
Our Enemy, the State Best Price: $4.46 Buy New $9.50 (as of 11:45 EDT - Details) What Obama calls PPDs have gone by different names by different presidents back to the Truman Administration. President George W. Bush called them National Security Presidential Directives (NPSDs). President Clinton called them Presidential Decision Directives (PDDs). President Nixon called them National Security Decision Memoranda.
Whatever they’re called, Obama has been less prolific than his predecessors. George W. Bush issued 66 such orders, plus 25 more Homeland Security Presidential Directives. President Reagan issued at least 325.
Some, going back as far as the Lyndon Johnson administration, remain classified.
Even the existence of the latest PPD issued by President Obama was unknown until another document referenced it, perhaps by accident. Again, from the USA Today:
How to Be Invisible: P... Best Price: $13.22 Buy New $5.87 (as of 05:25 EDT - Details) A one-digit correction to President Obama’s directive on hostage policy Wednesday had the effect of disclosing the existence of a previously unknown — and still-secret — Obama order on national security.
The hostage policy was originally released Wednesday as a presidential policy directive numbered PPD-29. When the White House corrected that number to PPD-30, it meant Obama had issued a secret directive as PPD-29 sometime in the past 17 months.
Obama signed PPD-28, an order on electronic eavesdropping in the wake of revelations by Edward Snowden, in January 2014.
So what is PPD-29? No one’s talking. A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment of the existence of classified PPDs Wednesday.
One of the most egregious examples of President Obama’s duplicity is the way he and his administration have responded to the roster of revelations that have come from Snowden’s leaks of documents defining the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA).