For All The Promises Of Transparency, Obama Administration Responding To Fewer FOIA Requests

from the but-of-course dept

One of the first moves that President Obama made upon taking office was to tell federal agencies to default to "allow" when it came to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and only deny in specific situations. It looks like that's not really happening. A new report points out that while the number of FOIA requests shot up last year, the government actually responded to many fewer of those requests. More than one-third of requests were refused. That's not the transparency we expected.

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  1. icon
    xs (profile), 16 Mar 2011 @ 8:17am

    This post doesn't match the sentiment in the source article

    While the headline and the wording here makes it looks like the source article is criticizing Obama for not been more open, the article itself is most certainly not critical, in fact, even praised Obama administration on some point.

    Also, let's put the numbers in some context here, shall we? In the article, it stated:

    "The administration refused to release any sought-after materials in more than 1-in-3 information requests, including cases when it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper under the law,"

    So the article is lumping everything together, where we are really only concerned about those that administration refused to respond to for no legitamate reason.

    The post here also made no mention about improvements in some critical area, such as when the article mentioned:

    "Perrilli said the Justice Department released full FOIA records 42 percent of the time last year, up from 36 percent in 2008"

    Also there are no mention here for comments questioning the FOIA processing number as a metric to use, or the praises in the article, such as

    "Steven Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ government secrecy project, wondered whether “FOIA processing” is the right metric of focus.

    “The ability to engage on matters of controversy, that’s really what we’re interested in when we ask for transparency. We’re not asking for piles of paper,” said Aftergood, who files dozens of FOIA requests annually.

    Still, he has noticed “improvements in FOIA processing” under the Obama administration. And he said the administration is responsible for some “epochal” disclosures.

    “For the first time last year we were given an unclassified description of the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal,” he said. “That is something we have not seen for over a half of a century. We have been banging on the door for 20 years or longer for that.”

    And last month, the government disclosed, for the first time, its intelligence budget request — $55 billion for next year.


    “I sued the CIA in 1999 asking for total intelligence budget request. They fought back and I lost the lawsuit. The court agreed that this would damage national security,” Aftergood said. “Within the world of secrecy, these are epochal changes. They are entirely to the administration’s credit.”"


    So, I'm afraid Techdirt, in this case at least, has not behaved in an objective and credible manner.

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