Sunday, March 21, 2010

Openness Is Inoperative -- Part 3

Monday was National Freedom of Information Day. I celebrated by observing that President Obama has not been forthcoming about disclosing the contributions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made to Federal candidates, contrary to commitments by the President and Attorney General Holder, as well as prohibited by settled law.

It turns out that Obama's penchant for secrecy applies well beyond Fannie and Freddie, according the the Associated Press:
Federal agencies haven't lived up to President Barack Obama's promise of a more open government, increasing their use of legal exemptions to keep records secret during his first year in office.

An Associated Press review of Freedom of Information Act reports filed by 17 major agencies found that the use of nearly every one of the law's nine exemptions to withhold information from the public rose in fiscal year 2009, which ended last October.

Among the most frequently used exemptions: one that lets the government hide records that detail its internal decision-making. Obama specifically directed agencies to stop using that exemption so frequently, but that directive appears to have been widely ignored.

Major agencies cited that exemption at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, up from 47,395 times during President George W. Bush's final full budget year, according to annual FOIA reports filed by federal agencies. Obama was president for nine months in the 2009 period.

Departments used the exemption more even though Obama's Justice Department told agencies to that disclosing such records was "fully consistent with the purpose of the FOIA," a law intended to keep government accountable to the public.
The AP story didn't deflect the White House this week from touting its alleged implementation of openness, based in part on praise from non-partisan, but reliably liberal, reform pressure groups. Meaning that this post could have been titled "Oceana Was Always At War With Eurasia" of the Day. Or something like, "Transparency Relegated to Fantasy Island."

(via reader Marc)

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