The most transparent administration ever – in the history of our nation, perhaps the world – can’t respond to FOIA requests without sending them around to other agencies, redacting them, and taking years to ponder the release. Sometimes they take fifteen years and more often they never respond.
David McCraw, a top lawyer for the New York Times, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and said he has to sue to get responses to FOIA requests.
Over a four month period, they called more than 10 times and left messages about one innocuous request on a budgetary matter. Almost all calls were left unanswered. They sued – there was no other option. An Assistant U.S. Attorney was able to get the documents released in what amounted to a colossal waste of time and money.
McCraw said the delays seem to result from a “culture of unresponsiveness”. Sometimes the requests are referred to other agencies where they languish.
One letter they received got a response – the agency told them it would take 15 years to finish the consultation and get the information released. A judge ordered the information released when he found that was simply not the case.
Sharyl Attkisson, former CBS investigative reporter, testified that FOIA has become a “useless shadow of its intended self.”
She is only now getting information on healthcare FOIAs that she requested in 2012 and only after filing a lawsuit. The documents she received were “redacted beyond reason.”
Anne Weismann of the nonprofit Campaign for Accountability, a witness invited by Democrats on the committee, says some problems arise because the statute has loopholes that some agencies have used to “circumvent” disclosure. She said that there is a “lack of any meaningful oversight within the Executive Branch.” She recommended training. The government has also failed to “effectively manage its records.”
McCraw said that when one agency refers to another, there are few rules to govern the process. He stated that “clearer rules and deadlines are needed for the referral process.”
Vice news Jason Leopold says he has submitted thousands of requests to dozens of agencies over the course of several years and fewer than 1% are answered.
Leopold’s FOIA request prompted a federal judge to order the State Department to begin releasing former Secretary Clinton’s emails.
There will be more testimony offered on Wednesday.
There is a law in the hopper to try to force the agencies to follow the law.
This regime is the best when it comes to transparency. Most transparent ever!