White House Abolishes FOIA Procedures

Rather than fight requests in court, the White House has now destroyed official FOIA procedures so that records can’t be requested anymore.

obama-tuxedo

Here’s another memo from the most transparent administration in history—the administration of a man who campaigned on open government. USA Today reports, “White House office to delete its FOIA regulations.”

The White House is removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, making official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office.

The White House said the cleanup of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings that hold that the office is not subject to the transparency law. The office handles, among other things, White House record-keeping duties like the archiving of e-mails.

Notice that while Obama criticized the Bush Administration for a lack of transparency he continued the same policy!

But even if the White House is right that the rules don’t apply to the Office of Administration, notice that they timed this decision to send a message.

But the timing of the move raised eyebrows among transparency advocates, coming on National Freedom of Information Day and during a national debate over the preservation of Obama administration records. It’s also Sunshine Week, an effort by news organizations and watchdog groups to highlight issues of government transparency.

“The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me,” said Anne Weismann of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

The irony is not supposed to be lost on you! Of all the days that the Obama Administration could have made this move, they selected National Freedom of Information Day to make this announcement. There is no way this can be a coincidence! They have intentionally repudiated the freedom of information. They are telling us quite clearly what they think of us and our desire to know what our government is doing.

[See also, “State Department Won’t Disclose Info about FOIA Requests.”]

The claim that the office is exempt from FOIA requests has been upheld by our (corrupt) courts, but it is a ludicrous claim, nonetheless.

Unlike other offices within the White House, which were always exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, the Office of Administration responded to FOIA requests for 30 years. Until the Obama administration, watchdog groups on the left and the right used records from the office to shed light on how the White House works.

In 2009 a Federal court ruled that the office was exempt from FOIA requests because it “performs only operational and administrative tasks in support of the president and his staff.” This makes it sound like the office has no information that is of any value. But, if that was true, then why has the White house fought the requests so hard? It is quite evident that there is valuable information that the Presidents (both Bush and Obama) have wanted to hide.

Abolishing FOIA procedures means there is now no longer a “formal process” for anyone to use to request access to information from the White House Office of Records. The Obama Administration has raised the drawbridge.