Bush Goes After FOIA

Remember that time the Office of Drug Control Policy told a student that it would take 200 years to file his FOIA request?

"Please note that the General Counsel is predisposed," the letter read. "Consequently, we must enlarge to June 22, 2207 the time provided for his final determination." (Or as Wonkette put it: "ODCP Promises to Get Back to You in the Far Future, If Man is Still Alive.")

Okay, chances are it was a typo, but that doesn't mean the U.S. government is not notoriously slow in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. A recent overview of overdue FOIA requests by the National Security Archive found "at least four cases where the delay was for more than 15 years," according to the Washington Post.

So, it was a good thing when legislation passed late last year titled the Open Government Act of 2007, which decreed that government agencies that receive FOIA requests must provide requested information in 20 days or less, or else pay a fine. Right? And it was a good thing to create an ombudsman position to monitor things and ensure that the law is followed. Right?

Not if you're President Bush.

Today's Washington Post reveals that, buried in the president's new budget request, is a plan to yank the brand new ombudsman position from the National Archives and Records Administration, and place it in the Department of Justice.

Conflict of interest?


"Because the ombudsman would be the chief monitor of compliance with the new law, that move is akin to killing the critical function, some members of Congress and watchdog groups say."

"Justice represents the agencies when they're sued over FOIA. . . . It doesn't make a lot of sense for them to be the mediator," said Kristin Adair, staff counsel at the National Security Archive, which is suing the White House to force it to preserve e-mails the administration says it may have lost.
Patrick Leahy's work is never done:
"Once again, the White House has shown they intend to act contrary to the intent of Congress," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "I will continue to work through the appropriations process to make sure that the National Archives and Records Administration has the necessary resources and funds to comply with the OPEN Government Act, and we will continue to work in Congress to make necessary reforms to the Freedom of Information Act."
One of our best recourses for combating government secrecy, FOIA requests serve a critical function. The Freedom of Information Act, which passed in 1966, "provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. All agencies of the U.S. Government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request."

It's no surprise this president would be hostile to such legislation.

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