Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

US sets new record for denying, censoring government files

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The US government continues its move toward becoming a secret government, in which citizens cannot learn what their government is doing, and the Obama administration has exercised a lot of leadership in the move to secrecy (and strong punishments for leaking secrets—except for David Petraeus, of course).

Take a look at this report in McClatchy by Anita Kumar and Lesley Clark: White House is again refusing transparency, groups charge. The report begins:

The White House is exempting an office from compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, angering open-government advocates, who accuse President Barack Obama of not living up to his pledge to run the “most transparent administration in history.”

The White House said Tuesday that the move to exclude the White House Office of Administration from the federal open-access law reflected a court ruling that predated the Obama administration and wouldn’t have any effect on its commitment to open records and its compliance with requests for records.

“This is a matter of just cleaning up the records that are on the books,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “It has no impact at all on the policy that we had maintained from the beginning to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, when it’s appropriate.”

The move, announced Tuesday in the Federal Register, came as news organizations markedSunshine Week to showcase the public’s right to know, and it drew sharp criticism from advocates who already give the administration poor marks for news-media access.

“This is another example of the White House position avoiding transparency,” said John Wonderlich, policy director of the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation. “Instead of creating more and better access to information, it’s trying to control it.”

“The president has routinely failed to deliver on his promise,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who’s proposed a law that would reduce the use of exemptions to withhold information from the public. . .

Continue reading.

Ted Bridis has this report, also in McClatchy:

The Obama administration set a new record again for more often than ever censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year 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. It also cut by 375, or about 9 percent, the number of full-time employees across government paid to look for records. That was the fewest number of employees working on the issue in five years.

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. It also spent about $28 million on lawyers’ fees to keep records secret.

The government responded . . .

Continue reading.

Obama has been a major disappointment in this area, and his promises about transparency are worthless.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2015 at 5:18 pm

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