And just in time for National Freedom of Information Day, Obama is removing regulations that subject the Office of Administration to Freedom of Information Act requests.
For the second consecutive year, the Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.
It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.
Its backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end grew remarkably by 55 percent to more than 200,000.
The government’s new figures, published Tuesday, covered all requests to 100 federal agencies during fiscal 2014 under the Freedom of Information law, which is heralded globally as a model for transparent government. They showed that despite disappointments and failed promises by the White House to make meaningful improvements in the way it releases records, the law was more popular than ever. Citizens, journalists, businesses and others made a record 714,231 requests for information. The U.S. spent a record $434 million trying to keep up.
The government responded to 647,142 requests, a 4 percent decrease over the previous year. The government more than ever censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them, in 250,581 cases or 39 percent of all requests. Sometimes, the government censored only a few words or an employee’s phone number, but other times it completely marked out nearly every paragraph on pages.
On 215,584 other occasions, the government said it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper.
The White House touted its success under its own analysis. It routinely excludes from its assessment instances when it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper under the law, and said under this calculation it released all or parts of records in 91 percent of requests — still a record low since Barack Obama took office using the White House’s own math.
“We actually do have a lot to brag about,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
When it comes to oppression, abuse of office, and corruption, you certainly have bragging rights.
The government’s responsiveness under the open records law is an important measure of its transparency. Under the law, citizens and foreigners can compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas. It cited such exceptions a record 554,969 times last year.
Under the president’s instructions, the U.S. should not withhold or censor government files merely because they might be embarrassing, but federal employees last year regularly misapplied the law. In emails…obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration about who pays for Michelle Obama’s expensive dresses, the agency blacked-out a sentence under part of the law intended to shield personal, private information, such as Social Security numbers, phone numbers or home addresses. But it failed to censor the same passage on a subsequent page.
The sentence: “We live in constant fear of upsetting the WH (White House).”
In nearly 1 in 3 cases, when someone challenged under appeal the administration’s initial decision to censor or withhold files, the government reconsidered and acknowledged it was at least partly wrong. That was the highest reversal rate in at least five years.
Yeah, let’s not ruffle the robe of Emperor Obama. You may end up being a target.
Of course he’s reticent about turning over files because they document his 7-year crime spree.