First Hillary Clinton deletes half of her emails, and now the White House is attempting pull the same stunt with its Office of Administration records by doing away with requirements that subject it to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Obama administration argues that court rulings support their interpretation that FOIA doesn’t apply to that office because it is only charged with administrative tasks.
Non-compliance with Freedom of Information by the White House started in George W. Bush’s second term, when 22 million emails were deleted by the office. The Bush administration was subsequently sued by a liberal watchdog group. A federal appeals court ultimately ruled in favor of the president’s office, but said that emails there must be preserved for future release —no less than five years — under the Presidential Records Act.
That ruling has set a precedent for how the Obama White House is handling their internal records, which arbitrarily releases such mundane and irrelevant information as “visitor logs and the recipe for beer brewed at the White House.”
Both liberal and conservative watchdog groups are outraged by the announcement, which is set to be published Tuesday in the Federal Register.
“It is completely out of step with the president’s supposed commitment to transparency,” Anne Weismann of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said. “That is a critical office, especially if you want to know . . . how the White House is dealing with email.”
“[The Office of Administration] operated under the FOIA for 30 years, and when it became politically inconvenient, they decided they weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act any more,” added Tom Fitton, of conservative Judicial Watch.
It seems there is some bipartisan agreement that the White House is going down the wrong path in trying to shield their records from the eyes of the public. Maybe Congress can step in and help put some pressure on them, for posterity’s sake.
If not, it won’t be long until all White House communication records are put on a private server so we may not see all the nefarious dealings of a 21st century American president.