Freedom of Information Act Is a Suggestion, not a Law

The Freedom of Information Act is ignored at will. Because who is going to make the government obey it?

Sixteen thousand unanswered Freedom Of Information Act requests! From Real Clear Politics:

JOYCE BARR, CHIEF FOIA OFFICER, U.S. STATE DEPT.: The State Department is committed to openness, it is critical to ensuring the public trust and to promoting public collaboration with the U.S. government.

However, meeting our commitment to openness is very challenging. We have a large backlog of 16,000 FOIA requests. We know this backlog is unacceptable.

Saying it is “unacceptable” is a lot like President Obama claiming “full responsibility.” It means the opposite. The fact is that Barr knows, and we all know, that this situation is totally acceptable to the people with power.

[And, by the way, a reader pointed out that the transcript above is inaccurate. She says, “We have a large backlog of over 16,000 FOIA requests.]

Consider this story at the Daily Caller: “Journalists Tell Oversight Committee: Bureaucrats Make FOIA Process ‘Useless.’

The journalists also suggested that government employees who violate the FOIA law should be prosecuted. There are currently no consequences to bureaucrats who don’t abide by the statute that has been on the books since 1966.

FOIA is a “pointless, useless shadow of its former self,” said former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

“Our role of objectively reporting the facts has been increasingly blocked,” said Newsweek Finance Editor Leah Goodman. “There is a motive for unresponsiveness and unaccountability.”

By some irony, as I looked at the above two sources, I also stumbled onto this long essay about government surveillance: “You’re a Criminal in a Mass Surveillance World – How to Not Get Caught.” The author’s contention is that we are all being made into criminals who will then be prosecuted through these new domestic spying networks. He writes:

To understand why we’re criminals requires a basic overview of how law is created and enforced.

Every law hatches a new crime with an associated punishment. A law is both an order and a threat, for if a law carries no threat of punishment, it’s not a law. It’s a suggestion. Politicians mince words by using different labels for their rules – laws, regulations, statutes, bills, acts, ordinances, et cetera – but they all fundamentally mean the same thing: Obey or be punished.

But not when there is a supposed law saying that government should be open and transparent to the people. In that one case, the law is not a law at all. It is merely a suggestion.

How long before we have 32,000 outstanding, unanswered Freedom Of Information Act requests? I’m sure it won’t take as long as it did to reach 16,000.