In Case You Missed It….

Dana Milbank took the Obama administration to task for its hollow talk when it comes to transparency this week in the Post. These are the best minds in the business on the subject, and they are right. Goes to show you that secrecy is a bipartisan value.

From the column:

“My administration,” President Barack Obama wrote on his first day in office, “is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

Those were strong and hopeful words. Four years later, it is becoming more and more clear that they were just words.

On Monday afternoon, open-government advocates assembled in a congressional hearing room to ponder what had become of the Obama administration’s lofty vows of transparency.

“It’s been a really tough slog,” said Anne Weismann of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The lack of effective leadership in the White House, in the executive branch, has really made it difficult to have more significant progress.”

“They’ve been reluctant to take positions,” said Hudson Hollister of the Data Transparency Coalition, “and translate that to real action.”

 

 

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Texas AG’s War With Washington Costing Dearly…

A nice piece of FOI-driven reportage:

The slogan goes, “Don’t Mess With Texas.” But with President Barack Obama in the White House a more appropriate cry might be: “Try it and

texas our texas

texas our texas (Photo credit: jmtimages)

we’ll sue.”

The Texas attorney general’s office has filed 24 lawsuits against the federal government since Obama took office — litigation that has cost the state $2.58 million and more than 14,113 hours spent by staff and state lawyers working those cases.

Many of those have resulted in defeats, including the recent high-profile lawsuits defending Texas’ strict law requiring voters to show picture ID at the polls and the new state-approved voting districts that a federal appeals court ruled were discriminatory toward minorities.

Those two cases alone cost more than $2 million, according to records obtained by The Associated Press using the Freedom of Information Act.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the costs are worth it, calling the litigation “a fight against the unprecedented ideology coming from the Obama administration.” In an interview, he said the legal battles he wages are meant to promote industry and protect Texas jobs.

 

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Judicial Watch Sues Obama Administration Over Access to Mortgage Docs

Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on January 3, 2012, against the Obama Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to obtain documents pertaining to accusations of fraud against the nation’s five largest mortgage companies and the creation of “federal accounts” to settle probes into faulty mortgage practices.

The Obama administration has reportedly been engaged in settlement negotiations behind closed doors with mortgage companies that would result in at least $20 billion in payments from the nation’s major banks.

Pursuant to a Judicial Watch FOIA request filed with the DOJ and HUD on May 17, 2011, Judicial Watch seeks the following records:

--  A set of government audits used to support allegations that the
            nation's five largest mortgage companies of defrauding taxpayers in
            the handling of foreclosures on homes purchased with government-backed
            loans.

        --  A term sheet which outlined the Obama administration's settlement
            offer to the mortgage companies accused of fraud. The terms described
            on this document allegedly included the creation of a federal account
            funded by the nation's largest mortgage firms to help distressed
            borrowers avoid foreclosure and settle state and federal probes into
            alleged faulty mortgages practices.
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Obama Administration Issues WikiLeaks Executive Order….

By executive order, President Obama will instruct federal agencies today to better safeguard their classified secrets, to set up internal audit systems, and to make sure that reluctance to share critical intelligence in the aftermath of the WikiLeaks exposure does not hamper collaboration across agencies.

The so-called “WikiLeaks” executive order has been long awaited by the national security establishment and by the privacy and civil liberties communities. It was provided by the White House to National Journal. The order creates a government-wide steering committee to create and assess information sharing policies across the government, as well as a mechanism to determine whether internal auditing procedures work properly.

Obama Visitor Logs: Riddled With Holes

South façade of the White House, the executive...

Image via Wikipedia

The Obama administration talks up the importance of government transparency, but White House visitor logs are anything but. That’s according to a new investigation by iWatch News. The White House website proudly boasts of making available “over 1,000,000 records of everyone who’s come through the doors of the White House” via a searchable database. Yet our analysis shows that the logs routinely omit or cloud key details about the identity of visitors, who they met with, the nature of the visit, and even includes the names of people who never showed up.

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I Have a Feeling…that Rep. Issa is About to Experience the Waiting Game

Darrell Issa
Image via Wikipedia

The Associated Press reports that the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wants to get the documents to determine just how well the Obama administration is faring in its transparency effort. The committee is looking for lists of who sought federal documents and what happened to their requests.

Agencies have until Feb. 15 to respond to Issa’s demand. Meeting the deadline could involve a major data dump. AP reports that the Defense Department alone got more than 73,000 FOIA requests last year, and the Justice Department received almost 64,000.

 

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