VICE: It Took a FOIA Lawsuit to Uncover How the Obama Administration Killed FOIA Reform

The Freedom of Information Act/Law has to do with the public’s right to know.  While the government has said one thing, it appears that they are doing another:

he Obama administration has long called itself the most transparent administration in history. But newly released Department of Justice (DOJ) documents show that the White House has actually worked aggressively behind the scenes to scuttle congressional reforms designed to give the public better access to information possessed by the federal government.

The documents were obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports journalism in the public interest, which in turn shared them exclusively with VICE News. They were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — the same law Congress was attempting to reform. The group sued the DOJ last December after its FOIA requests went unanswered for more than a year.

The documents confirm longstanding suspicions about the administration’s meddling, and lay bare for the first time how it worked to undermine FOIA reform bills that received overwhelming bipartisan support and were unanimously passed by both the House and Senate in 2014 — yet were never put up for a final vote.

Moreover, a separate set of documents obtained by VICE News in response to a nearly two-year-old FOIA request provides new insight into how the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also tried to disrupt Congress’s FOIA reform efforts, which would have required those agencies to be far more transparent when responding to records requests…..

In one email VICE News obtained, the SEC’s chief FOIA officer, John Livornese, remarked to a colleague after the Senate memorialized its position in a report, “Just when you thought exemption 8 couldn’t get any stronger,” meaning the SEC could continue to withhold information under that exemption.

Chaffetz, who co-sponsored the latest FOIA reform bill passed by the House in January, told VICE News in a statement that the Obama administration’s promises of transparency have never materialized.

“President Obama promised the ‘most transparent’ administration in history. I see no evidence to support that statement,” Chaffetz said. “Time and time again this administration has aggressively thwarted efforts for a more open and transparent government.”

 

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