Obama DHS Diverts FOIA Requests For Political Appointee Scrutiny

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Posted: Jul 22, 2010 10:21 AM
In an interesting story from the AP, as reported at Wired, Obama's "open and transparent" government has been taking some "highly irregular" steps to filter requests for public records through political appointees rather than department bureaucrats. 

This practice, according to internal emails obtained by the Associated Press, allows appointees of the Obama administration to pass judgment on what information is being released, who knows its being released and the timing in which it is released:
The political appointees were allowed to vet records requests that were deemed politically sensitive and require career employees to provide them with information about who requested records — for example, where the requester lived and worked, whether the requester was a private citizen or journalist and, in the case of congressional representatives, whether they were Republican or Democrat.

The DHS issued a directive to employees in July 2009 requiring a wide range of public records requests to pass through political appointees for vetting. These included any requests dealing with a “controversial or sensitive subject” or pertaining to meetings involving prominent business leaders and elected officials. Requests from lawmakers, journalists, and activist and watchdog groups were also placed under this scrutiny. ...

The e-mails obtained by the AP... reveal that political appointees were less interested in vetting record requests for these reasons than for determining — based on the kinds of requests coming in — what areas might cause the government trouble in terms of scrutiny.  Knowing what records journalists were requesting might help the administration prepare a response in anticipation of a news story. For example, the e-mails show concern about making sure the department didn’t release information about Obama’s father without coordinating with the White House first.
And in another wholly unrelated coincidence, DHS reportedly stopped this practice right around the time that it handed over its internal e-mails to the AP.
The Office of Inspector General is now looking into the matter to determine if there is any evidence of wrongdoing, according to the news service. The White House says it was not involved in creating the DHS directive.
And once again, the White House claims to be out of the loop.  For the second time this week, we've seen the White House evade connections between itself and Obama's own cabinet agencies.  E-mails reportedly went from Homeland Security to the White House so the press shop had time to prepare remarks before a news story broke, but still the White House says they knew nothing about this?? 

At what point does plausible deniability translate into zero accountability?