The Obama Administration has called itself “the most transparent administration in history.” A recent lawsuit brought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has revealed that the administration may have done more than any other in history to fight transparency.
Documents obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation reveal that the Department of Justice (DoJ) was fighting reforms to the Freedom of Information Act in Congress in 2014. If those reforms were passed, it would have made it easier for the public to obtain government documents.
The FOIA reforms had great bi-partisan support and passed in both Congress and in the Senate, but never made it into law.
At the time, the Obama Administration claimed that they opposed the reforms due to the massive costs that would come with an increase in FOIA requests.
a six-point, talking points paper released to VICE News by the Freedom of the Press Foundation reveal the official reasons for the DoJ’s opposition to reforms.
“The Administration strongly opposes the passage of [the House bill],” the talking points say in the opening paragraph, “The Administration views [the House bill] as an attempt to impose on the Executive Branch multiple administrative requirements concerning its internal management of FOIA administration, which are not appropriate for legislative intervention and would substantially increase costs and cause delays in FOIA processing. The Administration believes that the changes… are not necessary and, in many respects, will undermine the successes achieved to date by diverting scarce processing resources.”
Trevor Trimm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation is however very skeptical of these official talking points, especially from an administration that claims to value transparency.
“This FOIA reform bill was incredibly modest, had already been watered down, and had the unanimous support of both parties — something that, in today’s political climate, almost never happens,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of Press Foundation. “Transparency advocates have been very cynical of the Obama administration’s claim that they’re the ‘most transparent ever’… but the fact that they opposed virtually every aspect of this bill is sadly a new low.”
Of note, the Freedom of the Press Foundation website is offline today.
[VICE News] [Freedom of the Press Foundation] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy of Tech Crunch]