The White House has erased all mention of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from its Web site. The removal, which was done wth no public notice, has underlined questions about the Obama administration's commitment to the board, which was created on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to oversee the federal government's actions on civil liberties and privacy.
ProPublica’s ChangeTracker, which monitors changes to WhiteHouse.gov, detected the deletion on the page that lists the entities encompassed within the Executive Office of the President. (Here's the page in question, before and after the change.)
The board has always existed in a kind of bureaucratic purgatory. In December 2004, Congress passed a law on intelligence reform that created the board. However, President Bush waited six months before nominating anyone to sit on the board, and it wasn't until March 2006 that the board first met. A year later, one of the board's members, Lanny Davis, a former Clinton official, resigned, saying other members saw the board as "wholly part of the White House staff and political structure, rather than an independent oversight entity."
Last week, we launched ChangeTracker, an application that flags changes to whitehouse.gov, recovery.gov and financialstability.gov.
Since then, we’ve spotted a few interesting updates, but so far most changes have been relatively unsurprising. It’s time to widen the net and track Web sites that are more than just public relations vehicles for the administration.
So, we’d like your help! Where else ought the watchful eye of the tracker look?
Would you like to be informed when Facebook’s or Google’s license agreements change? Maybe a regulatory agency or an NGO would be of interest?
(Also, have you copied ChangeTracker? The plumbing is freely available and dead-easy to use. If you’re using it, we’d love to know what you’re tracking.)
This week, we rolled out a few updates to ChangeTracker, our tool that watches White House Web sites for changes.
First, we're no longer tracking changes at Recovery.gov and FinancialStability.gov. The two have grown from fledgling introductory sites into full-sized government, but, honestly, the changes they're making now just aren't that interesting. Of course, if you'd still like to track those sites, you can build your own ChangeTracker by following our easy how-to.
We're continuing to track WhiteHouse.gov. Which brings us to our second tweak: we've added frequency markers to the feeds. In each change notification, you'll now see "rare," "medium rare," "frequent," or "very frequent" to indicate how often the changed page gets updated.
Yesterday afternoon, we noted our handy Changetracker tool had spotted some interesting changes on Whitehouse.gov. In particular, the call to “repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had been replaced with softer language saying, President Obama "supports changing Don't Ask Don't Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security."
Well, last night the White House reinserted language saying President Obama supports the “repeal” of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The new phrasing: "He supports repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and national security."
ChangeTracker, our vigilant and all-seeing widget, is barely a day old, and already it’s netted a revealing tweak to the White House Web site.
If you’d dialed up the "Additional Issues" portion of the Web site’s "Agenda" section earlier this week, the entry on Hurricane Katrina would have left you with zero doubt about who was to blame for the governmental failure to respond to the storm: the Bush administration. "President Obama will keep the broken promises made by President Bush to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast," the section read, continuing:
"President Obama swiftly responded to Hurricane Katrina. Citing the Bush Administration's ‘unconscionable ineptitude’ in responding to Hurricane Katrina, then-Senator Obama introduced legislation requiring disaster planners to take into account the specific needs of low-income hurricane victims." (Emphasis mine.)
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