Public to See Obama's Not-So-Secret Directive
WASHINGTON (CN) - President Barack Obama must release a global development directive that he says is "changing the way we do business" with regard to foreign aid and development, a federal judge ruled.
Though Obama signed the U.S. Global Development Policy, the functional equivalent of an executive order, in 2010 with much publicity, he has never publicly released it.
PPD-6, as it is known, purportedly addresses national security and foreign relations topics, but no part of it is classified and the government never tried to shield it under Exemption 1 of the Freedom of Information Act.
Rather the government has relied on Exemption 5's presidential communications privilege.
A detailed fact sheet that the White House posted online says the directive "calls for the elevation of development as a core pillar of American power and charts a course for development, diplomacy and defense to mutually reinforce and complement one another in an integrated comprehensive approach to national security."
The directive also "provides clear policy guidance to all U.S. government agencies and enumerates [the] core objectives, [the] operational model, and the modern architecture ... need[ed] to implement this policy," the fact sheet continues.
Since its enactment, federal agencies have purportedly relied on the directive to guide decision-making.
The Center for Effective Government filed suit to access the document, leading U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle to remark Tuesday that "the application of the presidential communications privilege to an unclassified, widely distributed presidential directive is an issue of first impression."
Huvelle nevertheless relied on Exemption 5 jurisprudence "that teaches that the determination will ultimately turn on the 'factual content and purpose of' the PPD-6."
After reviewing the directive in camera, she deemed expansion of the privilege "unwarranted."
Ultimately D.C. Circuit precedent fails to reveal specific consideration or endorsement of "the extension of the presidential communications privilege to presidential communications distributed and implemented widely throughout the Executive Branch," according to the 20-page ruling.
"The forward-looking PPD-6 is not 'revelatory of the president's deliberations' such that its public disclosure would undermine future decision-making," Huvelle wrote. "Finally, the 'president's ability to communicate his [final] decisions privately,' is not implicated, since the PPD-6 was distributed far beyond the president's close advisers and its substance was widely discussed by the president in the media."
Huvelle also emphasized the lack of intent to keep the document confidential.
It is also of note that, "from its issuance, the president has publicly touted the directive, referring to it as a 'chang[e] [in] the way [the United States] do[es] business' with regard to foreign aid and development," the ruling states.
"Moreover, the fact sheet released for the PPD-6 described in detail the goals and initiatives set forth therein, copying verbatim many portions of the PPD-6, and closely paraphrasing (although not copying verbatim) other sections of the PPD-6," Huvelle added. "Although the government is correct that the disclosure of portions of a document subject to the presidential communications privilege does not waive the privilege as to the entire document."