Since 2008, the Obama administration had made available the President’s original campaign promises at Change.gov, along with a splash screen directing readers to the White House website.
However, as the Sunlight Foundation discovered, the Obama administration removed access to these promises on June 8, two days after Edward Snowden’s first revelation. The likely reason? One of those promises was to protect whistleblowers.
Per the Sunlight Foundation:
While the front splash page for Change.gov has linked to the main White House website for years, until recently, you could still continue on to see the materials and agenda laid out by the administration. This was a particularly helpful resource for those looking to compare Obama’s performance in office against his vision for reform, laid out in detail on Change.gov.
According to the Internet Archive, the last time that content (beyond the splash page) was available was June 8th – last month.
Why the change? Here’s one possibility, from the administration’s ethics agenda:
Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
As emptywheel notes, Obama did extend whistleblower protections a bit last year, though he did so in secret.
However, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined, and Obama’s institution of Insider Threat, making it a crime for federal employees to not report suspicious colleagues while strongly discouraging workers from engaging in whistleblowing, hardly inspires confidence.
So is it a surprise that the Obama administration would remove access to its promise to protect whistleblowers, if that was indeed the motivation for removing access to all of Obama’s campaign promises? No.
Is it a jarring symbolic act?
Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG