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Tuesday, May 21 2019 @ 07:32 PM CDT

The Criminal Khristian President Goes After FOIA

Pyramid Mysteries

Liliana Segura

The President's attack on the Freedom of Information Act is his latest attempt to preserve state secrecy.
Remember that time the Office of Drug Control Policy told a student that it would take 200 years to file his FOIA request?

"Please note that the General Counsel is predisposed," the letter read. "Consequently, we must enlarge to June 22, 2207 the time provided for his final determination." (Or as Wonkette put it: "ODCP Promises to Get Back to You in the Far Future, If Man is Still Alive.")

Okay, chances are it was a typo, but that doesn't mean the U.S. government is not notoriously slow in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. A recent overview of overdue FOIA requests by the National Security Archive found "at least four cases where the delay was for more than 15 years," according to the Washington Post.

So, it was a good thing when legislation passed late last year titled the Open Government Act of 2007, which decreed that government agencies that receive FOIA requests must provide requested information in 20 days or less, or else pay a fine. Right? And it was a good thing to create an ombudsman position to monitor things and ensure that the law is followed. Right?

Not if you're President Bush.

Today's Washington Post reveals that, buried in the president's new budget request, is a plan to yank the brand new ombudsman position from the National Archives and Records Administration, and place it in the Department of Justice.

Conflict of interest?

Yes:

"Because the ombudsman would be the chief monitor of compliance with the new law, that move is akin to killing the critical function, some members of Congress and watchdog groups say."


"Justice represents the agencies when they're sued over FOIA. . . . It doesn't make a lot of sense for them to be the mediator," said Kristin Adair, staff counsel at the National Security Archive, which is suing the White House to force it to preserve e-mails the administration says it may have lost.

Patrick Leahy's work is never done:


"Once again, the White House has shown they intend to act contrary to the intent of Congress," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "I will continue to work through the appropriations process to make sure that the National Archives and Records Administration has the necessary resources and funds to comply with the OPEN Government Act, and we will continue to work in Congress to make necessary reforms to the Freedom of Information Act."

One of our best recourses for combating government secrecy, FOIA requests serve a critical function. The Freedom of Information Act, which passed in 1966, "provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. All agencies of the U.S. Government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request."

It's no surprise this president would be hostile to such legislation.

"Bush is no fan of the Open Government Act of 2007," reports the Post, "which takes aim at his administration's secretive ways ... After months of fighting it, and faced with bipartisan support that included many of his allies in Congress, Bush quietly signed the bill on New Year's Eve at his Texas ranch."

Now he seems intent on quietly squashing it.

http://www.alternet.org

**********************************

Is Ombudsman Already in Jeopardy?
Bush Proposes Moving Post From Archives to Justice Dept.

By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2008; A17

Hours before the new year, open-government groups won a key victory in their years-long fight to force government agencies to release documents without months, and sometimes years, of delay. The moment came when President Bush reluctantly signed a law enforcing better compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

But in his budget request this week, Bush proposed shifting a newly created ombudsman's position from the National Archives and Records Administration to the Department of Justice. Because the ombudsman would be the chief monitor of compliance with the new law, that move is akin to killing the critical function, some members of Congress and watchdog groups say.

"Justice represents the agencies when they're sued over FOIA. . . . It doesn't make a lot of sense for them to be the mediator," said Kristin Adair, staff counsel at the National Security Archive, which is suing the White House to force it to preserve e-mails the administration says it may have lost.

"Once again, the White House has shown they intend to act contrary to the intent of Congress," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "I will continue to work through the appropriations process to make sure that the National Archives and Records Administration has the necessary resources and funds to comply with the OPEN Government Act, and we will continue to work in Congress to make necessary reforms to the Freedom of Information Act."

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that the Bush administration strongly supports "the timely and fair resolution of FOIA requests" but that "only the Department of Justice, as the government's lead on FOIA issues and mediation in legal matters, is properly situated and empowered to mediate issues between requestors and the federal government."

Fratto said various government agencies are making "measurable progress" toward responding more quickly to FOIA requests.

Bush is no fan of the Open Government Act of 2007, which takes aim at his administration's secretive ways by requiring government agencies to cough up the information Americans request within 20 days, or face monetary penalties. After months of fighting it, and faced with bipartisan support that included many of his allies in Congress, Bush quietly signed the bill on New Year's Eve at his Texas ranch.

The law establishes the ombudsman's office to hear disputes over unmet FOIA requests, monitor agencies and foster best practices. The ombudsman would be part of the National Archives and Records Administration, the non-partisan repository where most of the nation's important documents eventually wind up, and from which they are distributed.

The Justice Department has hardly shown itself to be a strong supporter of public information requests: After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft issued a memo urging agencies to use all legal means to refuse public document requests.

A recent review of overdue FOIA requests by the National Security Archive criticizes Justice for holding up public records releases. In at least four cases, the delay was for more than 15 years.

More than 30 open-government groups have signed a letter they will deliver this week to Capitol Hill, "to highlight for congressional appropriators the executive branch's attempt to re-write the law -- signed only five weeks ago by the President," Chris Green, program associate at OpenTheGovernment.org said in an e-mailed request for signatures.

By law, agencies must respond within 20 days to FOIA requests, but in practice the process can take months or years. Delays grew after the terrorist attacks in 2001 as agencies began to favor nondisclosure in the name of national security.

Under the new law, requests will be assigned public tracking numbers. Agencies that exceed the 20-day deadline for responses will be denied the right to charge requesters for research or copying costs.

http://www.washingtonpost.com


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