The self-proclaimed most transparent administration ever has taken another step to make itself less transparent.
USA Today reported Monday that the White House is removing regulations that subject its Office of Administration to Freedom of Information Act requests. The announcement came on National Freedom of Information Day, the day after the beginning of “Sunshine Week,” a seven-day period that celebrates open government and freedom of information. The White House claims the move is consistent with court decisions proclaiming the office is not required to obey the transparency law. Critics aren’t buying it.
“The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me,” Anne Weismann from the liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said Monday.
“It is completely out of step with the president’s supposed commitment to transparency,” she added. “That is a critical office, especially if you want to know, for example, how the White House is dealing with email.”
Other White House offices have always been exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, according to USA Today. But the Office of Administration — which handles record-keeping duties such as archiving emails — was always considered under the law. That’s ending in the sixth year of the Obama administration.
“This is an office that 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,” Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch said. In a notice set to be published in Tuesday’s Federal Register, the White House announced the Office of Administration is no longer complying with FOIA requests based on “well-settled legal interpretations.”
“You have a president who comes in and says, I’m committed to transparency and agencies should make discretionary disclosures whenever possible, but he’s not applying that to his own White House,” Weismann told USA Today.
The White House said it will not allow a 30-day public comment period, making the rule final.
Too bad if you want to know who it was that made those ‘well-settled’ legal interpretations, because they don’t want to hear your questions or comments and now you can’t file a FOIA request to get more information. It’s done. Tick-a-lock.
Perhaps, as one commenter suggested, they are withholding information because it leads to dangerous thinking. Best just to get back to work comrades.