In keeping with court rulings that state the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Transparency Law, a federal regulation that subjects the office to the Freedom of Information Act was removed on March 17. This will make official a policy under presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office.
The Office of Administration handles record keeping duties such as the archiving of emails. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was part of Obama’s Cabinet, has been in the scope of news as of late for using her own personal private email address and server during the time that she held the position. This clouds the ability to FOIA her emails seeing as they mix in with the personal emails she sends as well.
According to the Associated Press, the Obama administration has set a record censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under FOIA. When the administration did fulfill FOIA requests it took longer than necessary. The backlog of unanswered questions grew to more than 200,000 by the end of the year. The administration cut 375 employees that were paid to look for records to fulfill requests.
The U.S. spent about $28 million in lawyers’ fees trying to keep records secret. For what Obama attempted to make viewed as the most transparent in U.S. history, his administration has come to be known as one of the least transparent in history. Too often is a press conference held where the best answer White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest or the secretary that preceded him, Jay Carney, can come up with is that the White House just doesn’t know.
In March 2010, the Associated Press found that, under Obama, 17 major agencies were 50 percent more likely to deny FOIA requests than under President George W. Bush. According to an Oct. 2012 Bloomberg article, Eric Holder, attorney general under Obama, has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined.
In contrast, on his first full day in office, President Barack Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which called for an unprecedented transparency in government.
The Office of Administration has responded to FOIA requests for 30 years which has only in the past 10 years become politically inconvenient. According to a March 16 USA Today article, late during the Bush administration the White House was sued for deleting nearly 20 million emails. The White House said in a March 17 Federal register that the removing of the FOIA regulations was based on “well-settled legal interpretations.”
The knowledge that the American public deserves is being kept secret and those of power who attempt to share it are viewed as traitors of the state for carrying out a moral responsibility, such as Edward Snowden, and would be arrested and thrown into jail for a lengthy sentence if they were to enter the country again.
Apparently the preamble of our constitution got lost somewhere in the political strife of the 21st century.
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