“Does the government fear us? Or do we fear the government? When the people fear the government, tyranny has found victory. The federal government is our servant, not our master!” ~ President Thomas Jefferson
The AP recently obtained government emails they requested to determine who pays for Michelle Obama’s expensive dresses. The National Archives and Records Administration blacked out one sentence on every page claiming the part of the law that allows shielding of personal information such as a Social Security number. They forgot to black out the sentence on one page and it said, “We live in constant fear of upsetting the WH [White House].”
This has been going on for years but grew into a far worse problem in 2009 with a simple presidential memorandum.
The White House memo of April 15, 2009, cited White House Equities – Presidential Privilege – to give itself the power to censor any FOIA requests that might contain “White House equities” — essentially any information involving or referencing communications with the White House — without first clearing it with presidential attorneys. Anything embarrassing is certainly included.
The vagueness of “White House equities” allows them to frighten agencies into releasing nothing and passing everything imaginable by them for approval like they do in Third World countries.
It assumed the power unto itself without benefit of legislation and it has successfully delayed or blocked information to media, Congress, and any interested party.
It has resulted in slowing or blocking any information coming from all Federal agencies, giving the Executive Branch full control.
Nowhere in the FOIA does it say the White House has a role.
The memo innocuously claims to be reminder but it is a first, not a reminder.
Greg Pruitt, The CEO of the Associated Press, wrote an editorial for his Sunshine Week column that details egregious violations of The Freedom of Information Act.
“Despite head-pounding frustrations in using them, the Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws are powerful reporting tools. But it’s important to remember that they don’t exist just for journalists. They are there for everyone,” Pruitt reminds us.
It’s so much worse than even that.
The rule allows the White House to track in real time who is asking for derogatory information about the Obama administration, agency employees told The Washington Times. Congressman Darrel Issa has said the White House is keeping a Nixonian list of these requesters.
Anything that could embarrass the administration is interpreted by agencies as requiring extra review.
By injecting itself into FOIA requests, it enables the White House to obstruct justice in congressional investigations. It also gives the White House the opportunity to propagandize and politicize issues and situations without facts being made available to the public.
It gives the White House incredible power.
In Mr. Pruitt’s editorial, he talks about the practice of charging exorbitant fees – in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – for the information that is readily and cheaply accessible.
Costs are a problem with state governments as opposed to federal. States are also blocking FOIA requests.
The AP recently commenced a lawsuit for some of Hillary Clinton’s records held by the State Department because in some cases they’ve waited five years and gotten nothing back. This is not about Hillary Clinton as much as it’s about The Freedom of Information Act.
As Mr. Pruitt wrote in his editorial, “The right to know what public officials are doing, how they’re going about it, what money they are spending and why … that right belongs to all citizens.”
Freedom is what sets the United States apart from other countries. It is what has made us exceptional. There is a movement afoot to alter the landscape.
Read Mr. Pruitt’s editorial for more detail, it’s shocking.