Thursday, March 19, 2015

FOIA White House Transparency None: Freedom of Information Act Void

""The administration of Barack Obama, feted as the most transparent in American history, has elected to continue contradicting itself by exempting the Office of Administration from FOIA requests. This removal of a federal regulation makes official a policy by the Bush and Obama administrations to reject FOIA requests made to that office.
This office handles, among other things, the archival of emails and other housekeeping duties. Considering the various email scandals that have involved the executive branch–Hillary’s private email server, the Lois Lerner saga–this exemption, which the White House maintains is backed by court precedents, looks especially problematic.
The announcement of this move comes during the tenth annual Sunshine Week, dedicated to preserving, protecting and expanding the right to know through FOIA. Liberal activist Anne Weismann, of the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, told USA Today that “The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me” and that “It is completely out of step with the president’s supposed commitment to transparency.”
Supposed, indeed.
Although most offices in the White House have been legally exempt from FOIA for decades, the Office of Administration answered FOIA requests  for 30 years. Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch told USA Today that “This is an office that operated under the FOIA for 30 years, and when it became politically inconvenient, they decided they weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act any more.”
That change in policy–the refusal of FOIA requests–began in the late Bush administration. A federal court ruling in 2009 argued that the office lacked sufficient independent authority to be subject to FOIA guidelines. Instead, the White House has to archive their emails, but those emails are released under the Presidential Records Act, which means that the emails will be released at least five years after the end of the Obama, or any other presidential, administration.
The White House has not disclosed why it waited six years to update its internal regulations to match the court ruling, or why it continued to voluntarily respond to FOIA requests to that office up until this point. The ruling itself eliminates any formal process that allows the public to request that the White House voluntarily release records as a part of discretionary disclosure.
In another example of exactly how much the apparently-transparent Obama administration cares about the opinion of the public or the public’s right to know, the White House said that there would not be a 30-day public comment period on the rule, making this new rule final""

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