Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FOIA Requests Go Unanswered by Obama Administration

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) issued the following press release on the subject of the Obama administration and its handling of FOIA requests:

Today, I issued the following statement in response to an AP report that political operatives in the Obama Administration are screening Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests:

Citizens have a fundamental right to know what their government is doing and political operatives should not be interfering with legitimate requests by citizens and journalists under the Freedom of Information Act. I am deeply disturbed that Obama Administration political operatives filtered FOIA requests based on the political or professional affiliation of those requesting the transparency guaranteed to our citizens under federal law. And I commend the House panel for doing its job of oversight of the executive branch, and I hope they get to the bottom of these allegations.

I recently re-introduced the bipartisan Faster FOIA Act with colleague Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). This legislation would establish an advisory panel to examine agency backlogs in processing FOIA requests. The panel, named the Commission on Freedom of Information Act Processing Delays, will be required to provide recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action to enhance agency responses to FOIA requests.

If a hyper-partisan politician like Leahy can come forward and note such a heinous way of handling FOIA requests by this administration, then that speaks volumes. Barack Obama ran as the post-partisan candidate and pledged to run the most transparent administration ever.

"Two years ago, the Associated Press filed an FOIA request seeking records related to the freedom of information process in the Homeland Security Department. After several months, the AP received 995 pages of heavily censored emails. The news service wrote several articles about how the emails indicated that requests for information often were subject to reviews by political appointees in the department.
Now uncensored emails newly obtained by the AP show that employees within the Homeland Security Department were warning that senior Obama administration appointees were delaying the release of government files. Department employees' emails described the appointees' behavior as "meddling" and even "crazy." One email from the deputy to the department's chief privacy officer said of the political appointees, "They don't like to abide by the law or be reminded that they are breaking it." That employee has since been replaced, a move that has raised questions of retaliation."

It appears particularly unseemly that a department as important as the Homeland Security Department is fighting transparency requests.

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