Bombshell: Justice Department Only Selectively Complies with Freedom of Information Act (PJM Exclusive)
Eric Holder’s Justice Department has even politicized compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. According to documents I have obtained, FOIA requests from liberals or politically connected civil rights groups are often given same day turn-around by the DOJ. But requests from conservatives or Republicans face long delays, if they are fulfilled at all.
The documents show a pattern of politicized compliance within the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. In particular, I have obtained FOIA logs that demonstrate as of August 2010, the most transparent administration in history is anything but. The logs provide the index number of the information request, the date of the request, the requestor, and the date of compliance.
For example, Republican election attorney Chris Ashby of LeClair Ryan made a request for the records of five submissions made under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Ashby waited nearly eight months for a response. Afterwards, Susan Somach of the “Georgia Coalition for the Peoples' Agenda,” a group headed by Rev. Joseph Lowery, made requests for 23 of the same type of records. While Ashby waited many months for five records, Somach waited only 20 days for 23 records.
Under the Obama DOJ, FOIA requests from conservative media never obtained any response from the Civil Rights Division, while National Public Radio obtained a response in five days.
In 2006, Charlie Savage, then at the not-yet-insolvent Boston Globe, requested all of the resumes of the recently hired attorneys in the Bush Civil Rights Division -- including mine. DOJ leadership was convinced rushing out the resumes of dozens of lawyers far before the deadline was a good thing.
Savage apparently has never made a similar request to the Obama Justice Department, even though the inspector general has opened an investigation into political payback and discrimination under Eric Holder. I wrote at PJM:
Savage could bolster his credibility by making the same inquiries of this Justice Department as he did to the Bush DOJ. For starters, he could examine the preposterous hiring practices in the Civil Rights Division since Obama’s inauguration. The more time that passes without an inquiry from Savage and the New York Times, the more partisan his badgering of the Bush DOJ appears.
Yet Savage won the Pulitzer for attacks on the Bush administration.
In spring of 2010, Pajamas Media requested the exact same information from the DOJ that Charlie Savage requested in 2006 -- except for hires made in the Obama DOJ. Recall the Bush administration turned over all the resumes of attorneys as fast as they could, and well before the statutory FOIA deadline.
PJM’s request was ignored. Then on October 13, 2010, the request was renewed by certified mail. Still, no response as required by law.
So on January 18, 2011, the case of Pajamas Media v. United States Department of Justice was filed in the United States District Court in D.C. The most transparent administration in history? Hogwash.
Don’t be fooled thinking that anyone was congratulating the DOJ’s 2006 zeal in rocketing resumes to the Boston Globe. The Bush DOJ’s eagerness to speed attorney resumes to the Boston Globe was rewarded with savage attacks. Republicans mistakenly bet that being champions of good government would earn them kudos. The only thing it earned was a kick in the teeth.
That’s not to say that anyone should have violated the FOIA, as the Obama DOJ has done with PJM’s request. But why would you grant favors to political opponents who plan to cut your throat? I suspect the current leadership of the DOJ takes that for granted. Notice they have not suffered a whiff of scrutiny until now.
The data in the FOIA logs I obtained reveal the priorities of the Civil Rights Division -- transparency for friends, stonewalls for the unfriendly. Those enjoying speedy compliance with their Freedom of Information Act requests include:
-- Gerry Hebert, noted free speech opponent, partisan liberal, and former career Voting Section lawyer who testified against now-Senator Jeff Sessions when he was nominated to the federal judiciary. Same day service.
-- Ari Shapiro of National Public Radio. Five day service.
-- Nicholas Espiritu of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. Next day service.
-- Eugene Lee of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Three day service.
-- Edward DuBose, president of Georgia NAACP. Same day service.
-- Raul Arroyo-Mendoza of the Advancement Project. Same day service.
-- Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. Two day service.
-- Tova Wang of Demos. Three day service.
-- Mark Posner and Robert Kengle of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Kengle is the same former DOJ attorney who did not want to do election coverage in Mississippi where a federal court found that white voters were being discriminated against. Same day service.
-- Brian Sells, formerly of the ACLU and now of the DOJ Voting Section. (Paging Charlie Savage). One day service.
-- Natalie Landreth, Native American Rights Fund. Same day service.
-- Fred McBride, ACLU redistricting coordinator. Same day service.
-- Jenigh Garrett, NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Same day service.
In contrast, well-known conservatives, Republicans, or political opponents had to wait many months for a response, if they ever got one:
-- Michael Rosman, Center for Individual Rights. Six month wait.
-- Jennifer Rubin (seeking records relating to employees, like Charlie Savage did). No reply at all.
-- Congressman Frank Wolf. Five month wait. Wolf now chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee in charge of the DOJ budget. Oops.
-- Jed Babbin, editor at Human Events. Six month wait.
-- Jerry Seper, Washington Times. Six month wait.
-- Jim Boulet of the English First Foundation. No reply at all.
-- Jenny Small of Judicial Watch. Five month wait.
-- Republican Pennsylvania state Representative Stephen Barrar. Four month wait.
-- Jason Torchinsky, former DOJ and now ace GOP lawyer. No reply at all.
-- Ben Conery, Washington Times. Five month wait.
It should be noted that the logs reveal plenty of mundane compliance to requestors of no particular note. Other times, very short delays mark a request from an administration friend. But in no instance does a conservative or Republican requestor receive a reply in the time period prescribed by law. The logs demonstrate an unmistakable pattern -- friends zoom in the express lane, while foes are stuck waiting on the shoulder.
Politicized compliance with FOIA might be an administration-wide pattern. The revelation that the Obama Department of Homeland Security has politicized the FOIA process may be just the tip of the iceberg.
If so, what should we make of patterns of lawless noncompliance with the FOIA? If nothing else, it exposes the rank hypocrisy of those heady days in 2008 when transparency was a campaign promise. In the worst case, we have an administration willing to violate the law to conceal details about their governance.
Even this should outrage members of the mainstream media -- unless of course they already zoom along in the DOJ information fast lane.
(Watch J. Christian Adams' PJTV interview here.)