'Most Transparent Admin in History' Has Denied 550,000 FOIA Requests
Journalists and government transparency advocates flooded a House hearing this week, expressing their extreme frustration over the Obama administration's lack of disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The Daily Signal's Sharyl Attkisson, formerly a CBS News investigative reporter, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the FOIA law has devolved into "a pointless, useless shadow of its intended self.”
“The broken system is not by accident, it’s by design," she said.
Attkisson told a story about a FOIA filing in 2003 - when her daughter was 8 - with the Defense Department concerning soldiers and vaccines. When she received the documents she wanted, 10 years had passed and her daughter was going to college.
A reporter for VICE News, Jason Leopold, said when he filed a FOIA request, he was told it was too broad, so he narrowed it and re-filed. The government deemed it "too broad" again, so he went to court.
"Recently they said that we'll give you some documents, as long as you promise to never file a FOIA request again and don't have anyone else file a FOIA request on your behalf," he said.
Asked how that could be legal, he answered, "I don't know, but they put this in writing."
Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that the stories went on and on. During the hearing, he lambasted the Justice Department for grading itself a 5 out of 5 on transparency last year.
"You live in la-la-land. You live in a fantasy land because it ain't working," he told a DOJ official.
Chaffetz talked about the "pattern of stonewalling" this morning with Bill Hemmer, pointing out that the Obama administration has denied more than 550,000 FOIA requests.
"It's absolutely totally wrong. We need to change the law," said Chaffetz.
Hemmer asked how this can be happening after the president famously promised in 2009 that he would have the "most transparent" administration in history.
Chaffetz said the committee discovered a memo from the White House that he says has caused even more delays and stifled attempts to obtain documents.
He said any FOIA request concerning the White House now has to go through the White House itself for approval.
"That's new information, we had never seen that before. But we found it. ... It's letting the bureaucracy know, 'don't let information out the door' and that's just wrong," he said.
Watch the full interview above, and watch video of the testimony below.