• With: Charles Krauthammer, Steve Hayes, Kristen Powers

    This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 16, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

     

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has demonstrated a commitment to transparency and openness that is greater than any administration has shown in the past.

    ANNE WEISMANN, CITIZENS RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS: We have an administration that is claiming a lot of credit for its transparency policies. But on the other hand, those policies haven't left us with a truly more transparent government.

    REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: This is not a president who has been transparent. All the facts show that he's actually less transparent than his predecessor.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Before the break, we asked you which president had or has the most transparent White House. Ronald Reagan won with 62 percent in this unscientific poll. There was the Iran-Contra scandal, of course, back then. But every administration has issues with transparency.

    What about this one? They're talking about it. We're back with the panel. Charles, the president was scheduled to accept an award today for transparency in government. It got postponed today. But one of the Georgia Washington University researchers who was honoring the president said only 49 of 90 federal agencies are actually meeting their targets when it comes to transparency.

    CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think that award on transparency would have been the domestic equivalent of the Nobel for peace after having done so little that nobody could see it except the gentlemen on the Nobel committee.

    Look, I'm not terribly agitated over the lack of transparency. Every administration hides what it wants; tries particularly to hide what's embarrassing and will show everything else. But from what I read the agencies of the government have been fairly responsive. We have just heard a complaint from an organization on the left. So I think it's left and right who've complained about the lack of responsiveness.

    They have been responsive in some areas. In fact on one area, I think too responsive, for example, revealing how many -- the size of our nuclear arsenal. I'm not sure I want our adversaries to know that.

    But generally speaking, it's -- the bottlenecks have come from the agencies and the bureaucracy and not from any edict, from on high. So, I would give them a B. I would give most administrations a B, and I would only chide them for what Carney has said, the sort of usual hypocrisy of pumping themselves up and saying how that they have been the best in the history of the planet.

    BAIER: Kirsten?

    KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK POST: Well, there are different ways to look at transparency. There's a lot of talk about the FOIA requests. But an area where he's gotten a lot of criticism --

    BAIER: Freedom of Information Act.

    POWERS: Yeah, sorry. Where he's gotten a lot of criticism from civil rights people, human rights people, is that he's invoked state secrets even more than the Bush administration did. So things that he criticized during the campaign, like NSA wiretapping or interrogation -- which he called torture - now, as president is invoking state secrets to try to block these cases.

    There was also the case in the U.K. where one of their citizens said that he was tortured by the U.S. and they wanted to reveal some of that information and our government told them if you do we will cut off, ya know, sharing intelligence with you.

    So it's kinda hard to argue you are being transparent when you're doing those kinds of things. They also have been more aggressive than the Bush administration in going after whistleblowers. And in fact, The New York Times said, even the most aggressive of any president, even including Nixon. So these are areas where this is how information does get out. And they really have blocked it.

    BAIER: It goes beyond the Freedom of Information Requests. There is also criticism that they had meetings over in Jackson Place, across from the White House with lobbyists because of the proximity. You don't have to get on the secret service logs for going in the White House, big story about that a couple weeks ago. Steve?

    STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah I'm sure that was just about space, right? They just needed a place to meet and they couldn't have it in the West Wing. I mean c'mon that's silly. Those are insulting explanations for this.

    I'm surprised to hear that Charles is so squishy on this. I mean --

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is squishy?

    HAYES: This is an administration that's not living up to its own standards. I mean, as Charles notes, the president said this, and he not only said it, but said it in an ostentatious way in his first week in office. "I will be the most transparent administration, I will run the most transparent administration in history," and he plainly hasn't done that when you've got these sunlight groups complaining about it. And the numbers don't actually add up.

    But look, we tested this, at The Weekly Standard, in the first week of the administration. We asked for the numbers on Guantanamo Bay recidivists. They wouldn't provide them. The Bush administration had provided them. This went on for two years; the administration wouldn't even give us the numbers about how many recidivists there had been. And the only reason they ever provided the information is because Republicans actually wrote it into law. So they're not more transparent, they're less transparent.

    BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for example of taking advantage of technical glitches.

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