A look at the Obama FOI record, depressing but not at all surprising…

I’m somewhat ambivalent about stories that try to blame presidents, regardless of their party, for FOIA performance. Federal FOIA is a sterling example of a statutory regime in its death throes, in bad need of substantive, topical reform, so all the blame game in the world does us no good if the statute itself is rotting from within…

In its first year, the Obama administration vowed an increase in transparency across government, including through the Freedom of Information Act; the proactive release of documents; and the establishment of a new agency to declassify more than 370 million pages of archived material.

Three years later, new evidence suggests that administration officials have struggled to overturn the long-standing culture of secrecy in Washington. Some of these high-profile transparency measures have stalled, and by some measures the government is keeping more secrets than before.

Media organizations and individuals requesting information under FOIA last year were less likely to receive the material than in 2010 at 10 of the 15 Cabinet-level departments, according to an analysis ofannual reports of government agencies by The Washington Post.

The federal government was more likely last year than in 2010 to use the act’s exemptions to refuse information. And the government overall had a bigger backlog of requests at the end of 2011 than at the start, due largely to 30,000 more pending requests to the Department of Homeland Security…

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