Uncensored Previously Censored FOIA Documents Reveal DHS Officials Found Politically Censoring FOIA Requests CRAZY

from the a-big-helping-of-meddling,-with-nuts-and-bananas dept

When President Obama first took office, one of his first acts was to tell government employees to be a lot more open in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. The key paragraph:
The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.
Unfortunately, as we've noted, the administration has quite frequently failed to live up to this promise. Last fall, we noted the particularly troubling news that Homeland Security had basically ignored the very basis of the above paragraph, and instead instituted special new processes to give FOIA requests extra political scrutiny to avoid embarrassing officials. In fact, they singled out certain groups, including the EFF, as requiring extra political scrutiny, rather than the basic scrutiny that is only supposed to make sure that classified/confidential info doesn't get out.

Amazingly, the FOIA requests that revealed this info... turn out to have been politically censored as well through that same process. The same documents have been released again -- this time without the extra redactions -- and we discover that a bunch of folks within Homeland Security were quite angry about the politicization of the FOIA process, with Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan, who was in charge of the FOIA process, complaining that this politicization was "CRAZY." Other emails show that DHS officials declared the politicized process to be: "meddling," "nuts" and "bananas!"

It's nice that all of this is coming out now, but it's immensely troubling that Homeland Security tried to politicize the FOIA process, and got away with it for a while as well. It's also unclear if similar politicization has taken place elsewhere in the administration. If the President really believed in that memo that he sent out when he first took office, why isn't he taking a stand against the fact that DHS specifically appeared to go against the very basis of that memo?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Jay (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 4:46pm

    Concern for Callahan

    "Callahan is expected to be a central witness during an oversight hearing Thursday by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Anticipating the hearing, the department announced internally Monday that any further political vetting of information requests will be completed within 24 hours."

    Here's what I see about this one...

    If Callahan is the central witness to this, and Obama is fighting hard to keep this a secret, what is stopping her from discussing this similarly to Manning?

    She's seen that this is pretty stupid and is highly upset by it, so I'm sure that people under her might want to begin considering alternatives to the FOIA requests.

    This is more looking at what may come out of this. If the central processing is becoming cumbersome, the alternatives (Wikileaks, Openleaks) will become all the more seductive for just such leaks.

    Let's just hope no one tries to take away Callahan's rights like they have done Manning for no reason other than to punish him for an alleged crime.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 4:48pm

    Its not surprising, really. Obama is a politician's politician. I can't honestly think of a single campaign promise he made that he did not break. That includes healthcare reform. The "reform" that has been passed down reforms nothing. Its just another in a long line of power grabs and protectionism for special interests.

    et venit novarum

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 5:24pm

    Obama voter's remorse began to set in even before he was sworn in. Uncanniest thing I've ever seen. It took some weeks for the vacuum of obamamania to get filled. That's when I realized that it was just like a season of survivor had finished and people were waiting to get swept away by the next round of terntainment.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 6:07pm

      Re:

      Obama is my hero. LEAVE OBAMA ALONE!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Jay (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 6:16pm

        Obama really does disappoint.

        No disrespect, but his words don't meet his actions. I don't want this to turn political, but what has he done for the American people of note?

        Did he gut-check the TSA for violating the 4th Amendment?
        No, no he did not.

        Did he help in getting copyright law or patent law more manageable?

        No, he made it worse by rolling over for industry.

        Has he made any true decisions that we can back up and say "now there is a man with integrity?"

        Look at how he weaseled out of speaking about Bradley Manning. Look at how he's let his administration run roughshod over the Constitution for political gain.

        I would give him bonus points if he actually looked into drug war policy and found a reason to support $70 billion dollars wasted on frivolous policy.

        I would give him the benefit of the doubt if he had opened up ACTA to the people of the US.

        No matter WHO is the president, if those things were being done by private citizens we would hold them accountable. Obama may not be infallible, but he has disappointed me greatly by doing absolutely nothing in the last 3 years to change that image of him.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 6:59pm

    Obama may not be the hope and change I was hoping for, but he is still infinitely better than the alternatives (McCain/Palin).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 7:38pm

    Obamanos, right back where we were.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 9:17pm

    nobel

    I wish they gave me a nobel peace prize for being a compelling liar.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
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    molecule (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 10:29pm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 11:40pm

    Anticipating the hearing, the department announced internally Monday that any further political vetting of information requests will be completed within 24 hours.
    -----------
    It appears to take a hearing to get them to react to the requests? Someone is worried about covering their butt is what this says to me. Up to this point, it didn't matter if it was released much less when.

    If the political head in charge of reviewing these requests decided it was time for a 4 day weekend, they apparently will get around to it some time.

    Obama has been a real disappointment. He has provided almost no visible leadership. He has purposely done what looks to be everything in his power to keep things going the way they were before he came to office with a few exceptions. Those exceptions were no bargain for the citizens. Healthcare that bends over for the insurance company isn't something that is attractive.

    He seems to be best at high profile while on vacation. When he arrives at Washington all of a sudden he's the invisible man. Remember no catering to the lobbyists? He did his best to make it a dirty word by implication. So instead of having them at the White House where they have to sign the visitors log, he has them across the street where they are out of sight.

    Whisleblowers are not welcome in Obamaland. He's very worried that any info gets out of the Whitehouse that isn't an official leak.

    Truthfully, I'm fed up with both parties. The choices to put into office always seem to come down to the lessor of two evils. No matter which way you turn, it's still an evil.

     

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      The eejit (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 1:31am

      Re:

      Set up the Monster Raving Loony Party and the Sensible Party. Problem solved.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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        identicon
        Anonymous American, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 5:39am

        Re: Re:

        We already have the TEA Party for the former. I'm not sure the latter exists.

         

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        Gwiz (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 8:38am

        Re: Re:

        How about the Untouchable Party? In the spirit of Elliot Ness.

        Campaign contributions from individuals only, no corporations.

        All campaign contributions to be transparent, including listing the contributor's name, employer and affiliations and to be posted online for everyone within days of receiving them.

        All candidates required to reveal all past affiliations.

        All office holders to take polygraphs monthly. Failure initiates a recall by their own party.

        All candidates to sign a "non-compete" type contract, saying that they cannot take a job even remotely related to anything they have legislated on for 2 years after leaving office.

        Yeah, OK, I know I am dreaming here..... I might as well wish for the moon and stars too.

         

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          identicon
          Bud, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 2:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The problem with asking for campaign law modification is that the Congress would have to do it. Democrats and Republicans. They created the current system whereby they can become quite wealthy while serving in public office.

          I seriously doubt you will even hear about campaign donation reform. Our Republic's Government has metamorphosed into a process of enrichment for those that Donate and those that Receive Donations. Just look at the lunacy of ObamaCare. Special Interest Groups (Donators)and Politicians (Receiving Donations) foist the most offensive processes on the mass of the American Public. Except for Special Interest Groups that are exempt, including the politicians.

           

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 9:13am

      Re:

      Truthfully, I'm fed up with both parties.

      The problem is too many people think there are two parties and they have to be a "fan" of one or the other. And in true sports fan mentality, they want their "team" to win, right or wrong. They don't even care about right or wrong, they just want to be on the "winning" team. It really stinks.

       

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    Proffer (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 6:07am

    who asked?

    Instead of scrutinising homeland security for politicizing FOIA requests,

    how about instead we find out WHO requested that politicization be implemented in the first place? Which senate / congress members, which governors? They're the true culprit and are the ones who should be punished, not Homeland Security.

     

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    a-dub (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:23am

    Your suggestions are very sensible, except for the polygraph part. It's a real shame that politicians are not held to such common-sense standards.

     

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    ReallyEvilCanine (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:57am

    Your mistake

    the administration has quite frequently failed to live up to this promise.

    You're making the common mistake of trying to hold PRESIDENT Obama to the words of SENATOR Obama. Do try and keep up.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2011 @ 9:03am

    If the President really believed in that memo that he sent out when he first took office, why isn't he taking a stand against the fact that DHS specifically appeared to go against the very basis of that memo?

    The same reason he came out against AT&T's warrantless wiretapping and then turned and voted to give them immunity over it? Because he's a lying hypocrite? Oh, but he's the first black president, so that's alright.

     

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