Obama Presses on FOIA. Agencies Ignore Him. More at 11….

Here is a fine example of how presidential leadership on FOIA can lift hearts and minds while doing nothing to move the hands of government

Ahead of a congressional hearing this week on whether senior political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security have blocked the release of some documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act, a series of newly uncensored emails indicates that some staffers complained for months of internal “meddling” by Obama-appointed officials.

Obtained by The Associated Press, the emails describe “crazy” and “bananas!” political reviews of document requests and “constant stonewalling” as files went to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s political staff as part of the pre-release vetting process.

A bit later in the piece:

In one recent instance cited by the AP, immigration rights advocates had asked the department for e-mails that political appointees had sent to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement about a controversial program. The internal search uncovered “embarrassing, crude exchanges” that were revealed not by the senders of those emails but by the recipients.

“Apparently, these embarrassing exchanges didn’t get turned over when the (political) front office conducted its search but they did when the ICE employees copied on these exchanges coughed up the responsive records,” the FOIA unit’s associate director, William Holzerland, wrote in January, the AP said.

Kudwa said that “no responsive documents were withheld” by the department’s political office. The Privacy Office, she added, never requested that the political appointees search for responsive documents on the ICE issue.

The department’s chief privacy officer, Mary Ellen Callahan, herself a political appointee, warned in emails that the department could be sued over the delays sparked by the political reviews. “This level of attention is CRAZY,” she wrote to her deputy in late 2009, musing that she hoped someone would submit a FOIA request on the process itself, the AP reported. Days later, the AP filed a FOIA request for documents related to political vetting and received close to 1,000 pages of censored emails last summer.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/52033.html#ixzz1I01erUXm

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/52033.html#ixzz1I015qR4q

 

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