Transparency belongs in all parts of a democracy.
This morning, President Obama announced that back in January we accidentally killed two hostages, including one US citizen, with a drone during a counterterrorism operation targeting al-Qaeda operatives in a compound along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The hostages, American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto, were apparently in the compound when it was hit by the drone strike.
Officials are saying that they had no idea Weinstein and Lo Porto were in the compound at the time of the attack.
The strike also killed two US-born al-Qaeda operatives, Adam Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq.
Speaking about the tragic deaths of Weinstein and Lo Porto, President Obama said that, “As president and as Commander-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni.”
The president then talked about why the government had chosen to make the operation and its tragic results public.
He said that, “As soon as we determined the cause of their deaths, I directed that the existence of this operation be declassified and disclosed publicly. I did so because the Weinstein and Lo Porto families deserved to know the truth. And I did so because, even as certain aspects of our national security efforts have to remain secret in order to succeed, the United States is a democracy, committed to openness in good times and in bad.”
President Obama is absolutely right. The United States is a democracy, and transparency is an absolutely necessary prerequisite for a democracy to properly function.
But when it comes to transparency you can’t play pick and choose.
You can’t be transparent about a counterterrorism operation that went horribly wrong, but then be incredibly secretive about something like… the TPP.
Earlier this week, President Obama was interviewed by Chris Matthews. One of the major topics of that discussion was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
In his interview with Matthews, President Obama continued to tout the TPP, saying that he wouldn’t promote something that would hurt our economy and hurt working-class Americans.
President Obama also called out TPP opponents like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, saying that she and others are wrong about the facts of the deal.
But here’s the problem. It’s hard to know who’s right or wrong about the facts of the TPP because it’s been negotiated largely in secret behind closed doors.
Any information we do have about it is from leaks, and there is still a great deal we don’t know about the agreement.
In a statement on her website, Senator Warren responded to the president, saying that, “The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement. It’s top secret. Why? Here’s the real answer people have given me: ‘We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.'”
Senator Warren went on to say that, “If the American people would be opposed to a trade agreement if they saw it, then that agreement should not become the law of the United States.”
So, what do we know about the TPP?
Well, according to Public Citizen, we know that the TPP could ship millions of good-paying US jobs overseas.
We know that the TPP could increase the costs of health care and medicine, while hurting health and safety standards.
And we know that the TPP could make corporations even stronger and undo what few reforms are left on Wall Street.
And we know that the Republicans, Wall Street and lots of transnational corporations are salivating at getting the TPP – also known as the Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement (SHAFTA) – passed.
Maybe President Obama is right. Maybe unlike every other so-called free trade we’ve signed on to, the TPP will actually help working-class Americans and help our economy get back on track.
But, we can’t possibly know that without seeing the full agreement in writing, and without giving Congress the right to debate and amend it.
That’s why I’ve let my elected officials know that I’m strongly opposed to the “Fast-Track” bill that’s currently before Congress, that would take away from Congress the power to debate or amend this trade agreement. As citizens of a free country, we deserve transparency and debate. It’s that simple.