— By Domani Spero
The State Department’s Daily Press Briefing remains the best reality show online, hands down. Today, we bring you, Marie Harf, State’s Deputy Spokesperson and Matt Lee, the Associated Press correspondent at the State Department for over six years. The two sparred over the word “transparent.” Ms. Harf says that “we” can use “whatever definition of transparent we want.” Mr. Lee disagreed pointing out that he thinks that word only has one definition. Reminds us of the utter confusion and rhetorical gymnastics employed on whether or not there was a coup d’état in Egypt last July. Sounds bad to our ears, you, too?
Below is an excerpt from the DPB transcript:
QUESTION: So then my last one is: When this current President came into office, he and his first Secretary of State spent a lot of time doing what they said was trying to repair what they said was damage done to the U.S. image and reputation abroad during the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency. Are you concerned at all that the weight of these revelations, coming as they are with increasing – seemingly increasing frequency, is negating the – that effort to improve your – the image of the United States abroad? Because it certainly appears that many countries, whether they’re warranted and are justified in feeling this or not, are looking at the United States now as some kind of Orwellian big brother-type outfit.
MS. HARF: Well, I think I’d make a few points. The first is that whether it’s on these alleged intelligence activities, on counterterrorism operations, on a number of issues, this Administration has taken steps to increase the transparency, not as much as I’m sure everybody would like in this room, but certainly whether it’s the President giving speeches about counterterrorism, giving speeches just recently about our intelligence gathering and how we’re reviewing that. We’ve actually taken steps to be more transparent, both to our people but to other countries around the world. So I think that people do look at that as a positive step in the right direction.
But when it comes to specific intelligence matters, we also, I would underscore here, share intelligence with a number of our partners and allies. Intelligence is collected, broadly speaking, to protect our citizens, to protect their citizens as well. So people understand the value of intelligence gathering around the world, right? It’s where the balance lies between privacy and security, and those are the conversations we’re having right now.
QUESTION: Yeah, but people don’t like – when you say that you’re being more transparent, people don’t like what they see when they are being – so just being more – coming out and saying —
MS. HARF: Well, I would disagree a little bit with your notion there. I think people appreciate when the President or the Secretary or other folks come out and say: I know there have been a lot of allegations out there. Here’s what we can say we’re doing, here’s how we’re looking at it. And when we have a path forward, we’ll let you know that as well.
QUESTION: Okay. But you claim to be being more transparent, but in fact you’re not. You’re not at all being transparent. You’re saying that —
MS. HARF: Well, I would take issue with your characterization.
QUESTION: Oh, really? Well, you’re not confirming any of these reports, whether they’re true or not.
MS. HARF: That —
QUESTION: How is that transparent?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we can use whatever definition of transparent we want —
QUESTION: I think there’s only one definition.
MS. HARF: What I would say is that the President has gotten – has stood up. Whether it’s on counterterrorism, he stood at the National Defense University and said: I’m going to talk to you about how we make decisions on counterterrorism operations —
QUESTION: Yeah, but —
MS. HARF: — for the first time.
QUESTION: — it’s either transparent or it’s not. It’s either transparent or it’s opaque.
MS. HARF: Matt, that’s —
MS. HARF: No, this isn’t a black-and-white issue.
QUESTION: You can’t have —
MS. HARF: That’s not – that’s absolutely not the case.
Perhaps Ms. Harf is referring to the use of “transparent” in computing, where it means “(of a process or interface) functioning without the user being aware of its presence.” Which actually kind of fits given the subject of the tussle.
We’re filing this in our “Huh? News” folder as It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s Not Superman On a Nantucket Boat Or How to Make a Non-News Into Big News.
- Obama, Hollande discuss NSA activities in France (upi.com)
- Annals of the Most Transparent Administration Ever (commentarymagazine.com)
- The US government bravely speaks about repression in Bahrain (angryarab.blogspot.com)