Leak investigations, seizing phone records, using FOIA-dodging private e-mail addresses: The Obama administration routinely makes a mockery of its long-ago pledge to establish itself as the most transparent administration in U.S. history. Now comes another blow, via the Associated Press.
A piece by the wire service’s Ted Bridis reports that the administration “more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act,” writes Bridis. And it has achieved this dubious milepost for the second consecutive year, according to the AP. Some key stats from the piece:
• In about a third of instances, the government conceded that initial decisions to withhold or censor documents were “improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.”
• The backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end went up 55 percent to 200,000-plus.
• “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.”
And then there’s the juicy part of the story, which needs no abridgment:
In emails that AP 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).”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest yesterday affirmed that the administration’s FOIA record provides “a lot to brag about.” He elaborated: “The Department of Justice did release records, or metrics related to Fiscal Year 2014. The administration, in Fiscal Year 2014 alone, processed 647,142 FOIA requests, and over 91 percent of those requests resulted in the release of either some or all of the requested records. That is the sixth year in a row in which more than — at least or more than 91 percent of Freedom of Information Act requests were complied with in a way that included response of either or part or all of the requested records.”
Perhaps Earnest should have mentioned that the demand for records is also setting records: “Citizens, journalists, businesses and others made a record 714,231 requests for information,” noted the AP.