Almost three months ago, PJMedia reported the story of a simple Freedom of Information Act request.
Our own Richard Pollock submitted a request to the Department of Defense to try and find out just who was on the four airplanes that flew to Copenhagen for the climate change conference in 2009, how much fuel they burned doing it, and how much it cost. The general thrust of the story was likely to have been “look how much fuel they used going to a conference to decide how much fuel we get to burn.”
Fifteen months later, Richard got back … four blank pages.
After making a few calls and rattling a few cages, we were told that there were many more documents but that the various reporting agencies hadn’t released them yet and a release was “forthcoming soon.”
Two months later still nothing.
So PJMedia got together with Judicial Watch, a non-profit watchdog group in Washington, D.C., and we sued the Department of Defense. The case was filed just last week.
According to the release announcing the lawsuit, Judicial Watch, on behalf of PJMedia, is asking the court to order the Air Force to conduct a search for “any and all responsive records,” set a specific date that PJMedia is to receive the requested documents, and provide PJMedia with a Vaughn index describing the records that are being withheld under claims of exemption.
In the release, Roger L. Simon, CEO of PJMedia took the administration to task:
What happened to the transparency that candidate Obama promised? It has taken almost a year for this administration to turn over a flight manifest and then that document was heavily redacted. The Obama administration has proven itself to be one of the most secretive administrations in history.
I spoke to Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, last week. He says there’s more to it than just the administration not wanting to turn over records. The dirty little secret is that the Air Force has a fleet of luxury jets they make available to high government officials and members of Congress. Fitton also said the records we’ve asked for are readily available.
PJMedia noted back in April:
There was a bit more to it than that, of course, but it was still pretty innocuous stuff. The volume of fuel used in the flights and how much the baggage weighed, as well as who was on all the flights, is information kept by the Air Force as a matter of course. This request should have taken about 20 minutes with a file cabinet to fill. Additionally, while this information would be classified (also as a matter of course), none of it was national security information. We all know the president went to Copenhagen and came back empty-handed.
Fitton noted in the Judicial Watch release that that might have had something to do with why they don’t want to release the information:
The December 2009 United Nations “climate change” conference in Copenhagen must have been embarrassing for global warming activists and their associates in Washington. The Conference not only failed to enact worldwide “climate” action, but the airlift of President Obama and other government officials must have resulted in huge, wasteful costs for the American people. No wonder PJM can’t get anything out of the administration about that disastrous conference.
Fitton also said he was happy to be helping PJMedia with this suit:
Too much of the media is supine in the face of Obama’s secrecy. We’re please to partner with PJ Media in saying “no.”
PJMedia tried calling the Department of Defense on Tuesday, knowing the DoD had been served on Monday, to no avail. We got kicked around to a couple of different offices and left a message to have someone call for the expected “we can’t comment.”
This is typical of this entire affair. When we made a series of phone calls to DoD back in April, we got figures for the number of documents we were supposed to have gotten ranging from 29 pages to 150 pages.
We still maintain that this is information any airline keeps without even thinking about it.
Additionally, this was a routine request for routine information from a reporter. It shouldn’t have required this level of involvement to get the information. It certainly shouldn’t have taken a year-and-a-half.
The original request was kicked all the way up to the office of the secretary of defense. There’s no valid reason to make it this difficult for PJMedia to get basic information unless the administration has something to hide.
But then, this is the most transparent administration ever.