Transparency: Obama WH Employs Political Vetting Process for FOIA Requests

Posted: Mar 31, 2011 4:12 PM
Nope, I'm not referring this story (Headline: "Obama Gets Openness Award In Private").  I'm referring to this one, which details the administration's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) political review process:

Under grilling by top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa at a hearing Thursday on special political reviews of document requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) submitted by journalists, watchdog groups and lawmakers, Obama administration officials defended the process saying, in the words of a top lawyer, the practice was “sound managerial practice.”

But even while defending the special reviews by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s top political lieutenants, the agency’s top FOIA official admitted the serious delays caused by the process were “not up to my standards” and pointed to changes made after the Associated Press requested reams of documents about how it worked in the summer of 2010.

The hearings disclosed that two specific types of FOIA requests triggered special high-level political reviews:

The hearing highlighted that two categories of document requests went straight to the Obama White House for an even more stringent review.

Requests regarding the calendar for cabinet officials and any document requests related to Obama’s massive economic stimulus were subject to those reviews.

I understand that the former information may be sensitive for security reasons, but as for the latter issue, I share Rep. Jason. Chafetz's curiosity:

Why? Why does that require special White House review,” asked Rep. Jason Chafetz about the White House review of requests related to the stimulus.

“Sir, I’m the chief FOIA officer I’m not a policy person in this area,” Callahan said, “I believe I was instructed by the Office of the Secretary to do that and we processed it accordingly.”

From the White House website:

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Do as I say, etc...