According to the Associated Press:
People requested information 544,360 times last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act from the 35 largest agencies, up nearly 41,000 more than the previous year, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of new federal data. But the government responded to nearly 12,400 fewer requests.
But that’s not even the money quote. Apparently the White House won’t even respond to open records requests about its open records program!
The Obama administration censored 194 pages of internal e-mails about its Open Government Directive that the AP requested more than one year ago. The December 2009 directive requires every agency to take immediate, specific steps to open their operations up to the public. But the White House Office of Management and Budget blacked out entire pages of some e-mails between federal employees discussing how to apply the new openness rules, and it blacked out one e-mail discussing how to respond to AP’s request for information about the transparency directive.
At this point Issa’s committee is preparing to undertake hearings Thursday into the administration’s handling of FOIA requests.
Committee sources indicate those testifying may be in for a long morning.
“It’s easy to promise openness,” sources close to the committee said. “It’s quite another to deliver it. Because there’s daylight between the administration’s words and deeds, taxpayers deserve to know what’s standing in the way of a truly free FOIA.”
Let’s hope they can get some answers. While it’s obviously not possible to comply with every FOIA request, the sheer volume of refusals is troubling. More troubling still is the apparent tendency to favor requests from sympathetic agencies and groups.
An administration which slammed its predecessor for failing to comply with FOIA should have a substantially better record of compliance than those whom they hold in such contempt.