Google the words "Barack Obama FOIA" (without quotes). Go on. You'll find an interesting story, if you read the links in the right order.
From The National Security Archive
, January 21, 2009:
President Obama embraces openness on day one, as urged by the National Security Archive and a coalition of more than 60 organizations
New president says era of secrecy in Washington is over, pledges "new era of openness in our country"
, January 23, 2009:
It has received the least attention of his first-day decisions, but President Barack Obama's memorandum on reviving the Freedom of Information Act stands as the clearest signal yet that his campaign talk about "a new era of open government" wasn't just rhetoric; it's for real.
There's a lot more like that from that time period. But now let's look at a piece from just last month, in The Blaze
In a move that went little noticed in 2009, the White House quietly amended portions of the Freedom of Information Act, making it more difficult for Americans to request public documents for review.
The FOIA change came in an April 15, 2009, memo from then-White House Counsel Greg Craig, according to the Washington Examiner, citing a new report from Washington-based watchdog group Cause of Action.
In the memo, Craig instructed the executive branch to let Obama administration officials review all documents sought under FOIA requests to determine if said documents involved “White House equities.”
However, nowhere in the FOIA does it say that White House officials can withhold certain documents for further review, meaning that the Obama administration effectively altered the law to justify burying public documents, the Washington Examiner notes.
The Craig “equities” exception is remarkably broad, covering everything from congressional committee requests, to GAO requests, to judicial subpoenas.
So, the great new era of openness and transparency lasted from January 21, 2009 to April, 2009. Ah, those were indeed the glory days of the Obama administration!
From Jason Leopold
, also last month:
Last week, as she does every year around Sunshine Week, Melanie Pustay went to The Hill and testified before a congressional committee about how great government agencies haven been doing responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and providing requesters with responsive records.
She runs the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy. OIP enforces FOIA. Bush appointed her.
But as the National Security Archive has documented again and again and again, Pustay misleads Congress and the public about her office's FOIA sucesses.
Well, as the Archive’s Nate Jones pointed out again on the indispensible Unredacted blog, lawmakers weren’t lapping up Pustay’s claims about the “most transparent administration in history.” She was grilled by lawmakers about her agency’s own failure to live up to Obama’s day one transparency promises, which frequent requesters know have not materialized.
But it gets worse. The Associated Press conducted its own analysis and reported Sunday that “More often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year” in response to FOIA requests.
Now let's go to one of the National Security Archive pieces
lying at the other end of Leopold's link.
Open government advocates have been critical of this seemly unilateral title bump by the DOJ OIP because –quite frankly– the DOJ has an atrocious record protecting the rights of FOIA requesters. Want examples?
Just off the top of my head, during the Obama administration, the DOJ has: defended agencies for simply ignoring the new, crystal-clear fee provisions of the 2007 OPEN Government Act; has made the “odd“ argument to the Supreme Court that FOIA should become a withholding, rather than a disclosure, statute; has proposed regulations that allow lying to FOIA requsters (it’s probably still doing this despite the regs having been beaten back) and denying new media fee waivers (DOJ OIP Director Melanie Pustay later testified that the public “misinterpreted,” “misconstrued,” “didn’t necessarily understand” the regulations); cooked its books to “achieve” a comically high 94.5% FOIA release rate; refused to confirm or deny the existence of a DOJ Office of Legal Counsel memo allowing the assassination of Americans, even as AG Holder made a public case as to why this is legal (without mentioning the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, so the DOJ could continue to glomar documents about his assassination); proposed a blanket new cybersecurity FOIA exemption during Sunshine Week; and, finally, according to University of Syracuse’s FOIA Project, has reneged on Holder’s memo promising that the DOJ would only defend FOIA denials in cases that would clearly cause harm, the report states that the DOJ has not refused to defend a single FOIA case duing the Obama administration.
By the way, did you know that in 2012, the CIA was allowed to withhold a document about the Bay of Pigs on the grounds that it would "confuse the public"
? The Bay of Pigs
. The Obama administration is covering up shit that happened 50 years ago!
Actually, it looks like what's being censored is release of an in-house history that tried to place all blame on Kennedy
.Well, he wasn't to blame (certainly not to that degree), but re-opening that debate could lead to the real
truth -- that Allen Dulles tried to force JFK into allowing direct military involvement.
And by the way -- this administration is also refusing to release certain files pertinent to the Kennedy assassination, despite the JFK records act that came into being after the release of Oliver Stone's film twenty years ago. For example, researchers aren't allowed to see Oswald's tax records for certain key years. Why the secrecy? I feel certain that the government is still hiding Oswald's sources of income, which probably trace back to Agency fronts. (The guy did an awful lot of traveling for a low-wage worker.)
Let's get back to the National Security Archives and their ongoing battle with Ms. Pustay. She wanted new, stricter FOIA rules
to "streamline" the process.
The proposed regs would have changed DOJ’s FOIA process to:
- deny requests that aren’t addressed to precisely the correct department (16.3 (a))
- summarily dismiss requests if officials deem the wording too vague (16.3 (c))
- automatically apply exclusions to FOIA whenever the government can (16.4 (a))
- allow hiding what part of the agency is responsible for fulfilling requests (16.4 (e))
- make it more difficult for requests to be deemed urgent (16.5 (e))
- remove the ability of the courts to oversee how DOJ applies some exclusions (16.6 (f))
- make it easier for businesses to declare that information is a trade secret (16.7)
- allow destruction of records that might be responsive to FOIA requests (16.9)
- ignore a request for information to be provided in a specified format (16.9(a)(3))
- disqualify most schools from getting FOIA fees waived (16.9(a)(4))
- exclude new media from getting fees waived (16.10(a)(6))
- make it easier to deny fee waivers (16.10(k)(2)(iii))
"Allow destruction of records that might be responsive to FOIA requests..." My god. What would the folks at Kos have made of such a proposal if it had been made under Dubya?
Seriously, I want you all to spread the meme: Our president is now called BACKTRACK Obama.