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Department of Justice Accused of Undermining FOIA Ombudsman

Jared Rodriguez/Truthout

The Obama administration continues to disseminate a flawed narrative about President Obama’s commitment to open government. Just last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters during a press briefing that President Obama has taken steps, “unprecedented in American presidential administration history,” to “enhance transparency.”

But Carney’s rhetoric is not supported by the facts, as has been documented time and again over the past three years.

Indeed, one veteran Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requester said, “there’s no question about it,” the Obama administration is “the worst on FOIA issues.”

“This administration is raising one barrier after another…. It’s gotten to the point where I’m stunned – I’m really stunned,” Washington lawyer Katherine Meyer told Politico earlier this year.

The government agency largely responsible for thwarting the administration’s transparency promises is the Justice Department’s (DOJ) Office of Information Policy (OIP), which is supposed to ensure all federal agencies comply with the executive order on open government Obama signed immediately after he was sworn into office and the new FOIA guidelines Attorney General Eric Holder issued shortly thereafter.

Instead, “OIP has introduced FOIA regulations that would have allowed lying to requesters, excluded online media from news media fee waivers, made it easier for the DOJ to capriciously deny requests and begun charging students for making FOIA requests,” said Nate Jones of George Washington University’s National Security Archive, a historical research group that files thousands of FOIA requests and publishes declassified documents, in an interview with Truthout. “In its FY 2011 FOIA report, OIP cooked its FOIA stats to present a laughably high 95.4 percent FOIA release rate. (The actual release rate was closer to 56.7 percent.)”

Read the rest of this report by Jason Leopold at Truthout

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