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On the descent, the Obama ladies skipped the gondola and took a ride on a hand-controlled toboggan. “No news photographers had been given a chance to capture this priceless moment,” noted the pooler in a dispatch back to the United States.

No matter what the White House claimed, this trip was 100 percent political. A private trip was the week Mrs. Obama spent in Hawaii after New Year’s to celebrate her 50th birthday at Oprah Winfrey’s house.

While the taxpayers had to pay to send an extra government plane to bring her home separately from her husband, at least there were no hotels, motorcades or a gazillion aides.

I was the deputy press secretary at the State Department for Secretaries of State Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice. My responsibility was to determine press interviews and media events for the secretary, both home and abroad.

I think the most outrageous move by this White House was not allowing reporters on the plane with the first lady.

Most likely, she traveled on the same Boeing 757 planes used for travel by the vice president and secretaries of state and defense. We had about 20 reporters who sat in the seats in the back section on every flight. (The media outlets pay for their travel.)

The enormous benefit for the media was that the secretary would often do an on-the-record briefing on the plane and take questions. There was also the advantage of off-the-record conversations to get to know the official better and perhaps get an understanding of a policy decision.

During refueling stops, the media was present in case anything happened. For Mrs. Obama, those takeoffs and landings were hidden from view.

The role of the press is to give the facts to the public and hold officials accountable. That is why the freedom for the media is so vital to a democracy. When the first lady is on official travel, the media should always be allowed to accompany her.

Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun” (Regnery, 2013).