WASHINGTON — Although technology enables public files to be shared and accessed on the Web easily, a panel of experts agreed Wednesday that transparency between the government and the press still requires improvement.
“In some ways we are living in a golden age of transparency,” said Barton Gellman. “There’s lots of more data available.”
“Moreover, people who want to find out things have many more tools,” added The Century Foundation Senior Fellow. Gellman is a former investigative reporter for The Washington Post who won a Pulitzer Prize for covering disclosures by Edward Snowden two years ago about the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance on foreign countries and American citizens.
However even with the presence of technological tools, Charlie Savage, Washington correspondent of The New York Times, said “Stuff can be available, yet not recognized.”
Gellman and Savage were participants in a discussion called “Government Secrecy and the Fourth Estate” at the National Press Club.
Despite being a useful tool for journalists, one questioner noted that technology has also become a tool for the government to track down sources who have revealed confidential information.
Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, said, “They’re gathering information, identifying who would have been a likely person to have gotten that [information] and then trying to survey the universe of all this electronic data and figure out who your sources likely would have been.”
“While the Obama Administration claims to be the most transparent in history,” said Dalglish, “what they’re pushing out is pretty routine stuff.”
According to Dalglish, the frustration of reporters being stonewalled by the government is still an ever present problem with this administration.
The panel was a discussion based on a book titled “Democracy in the Dark: The Seduction of Government Secrecy” by Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Jr.
A theme of the book focuses on the role of journalism, which Schwarz claims is vital and important to democracy.
“Excessive secrecy is profoundly undemocratic” he said.