AP names administration officials White House did not want quoted

Dylan Stableford

The White House organized a conference call with two senior administration officials on Tuesday to "preview an announcement by President Barack Obama about an important China trade issue," but told reporters on the call not to quote them by name.

The Associated Press sidestepped the request, naming them anyway:

The officials were U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and the deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, Michael Froman.

The AP did not quote Kirk and Froman directly, but its message was clear.

The news service pointed out the irony of conducting a "background" conference call--common for the administration--during so-called "Sunshine Week," when "news organizations and advocacy groups promote government transparency."

"Obama has promised that his administration will be the most transparent in American history," the AP wrote. "But events on Tuesday illustrate that old habits die hard."

The other event was on Capitol Hill, where Melanie Ann Pustay, the director of the Justice Dept.'s office of information policy, urged lawmakers to approve legislation that would keep certain "sensitive materials" related to cybersecurity secret and exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests by media companies.

A spokesman for the Associated Press did not return a request for comment.

The Obama White House has drawn criticism in the past for its off-the-record lunches with reporters and television pundits. In 2010, Obama hosted an off-the-record event for about a dozen White House reporters. (The New York Times was among several media outlets to decline the president's invitation.)

And last March, Obama accepted a "transparency award" from a several watchdog groups--at a closed-door event that was off-limits to press and media coverage.

"To have such a meeting not be transparent is the height of irony," Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, one of those groups, told the AP at the time. "How absurd can that be?"

It's worth noting that President George W. Bush routinely held off-the-record events with reporters, including several barbecues at his Crawford, Texas ranch.

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