Obama Sets New Record for Censoring and Denying Access to Gov Documents

Many of you will have heard about how the White House recently celebrated National Freedom of Information Day by removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act. While interesting, it turns out that was merely a sideshow to the real news; that fiscal 2014 marked a record year for government censorship of documents that are supposed to be available on request.

Specifically, data released Tuesday showed that the U.S. government responded to 647,142 requests, a 4% decrease over the previous year, and that the backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end surged by 55% to more than 200,00.

More from the AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration set a new record again for more often than ever censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.

Can’t make this stuff up.

Its backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end grew remarkably by 55 percent to more than 200,000. It also cut by 375, or about 9 percent, the number of full-time employees across government paid to look for records. That was the fewest number of employees working on the issue in five years.

The government responded to 647,142 requests, a 4 percent decrease over the previous year. It more than ever censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them, in 250,581 cases or 39 percent of all requests. Sometimes, the government censored only a few words or an employee’s phone number, but other times it completely marked out nearly every paragraph on pages.

The government’s responsiveness under the open records law is an important measure of its transparency. Under the law, citizens and foreigners can compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas. It cited such exceptions a record 554,969 times last year.

Well in the UK, we know that protecting powerful pedophiles is considered a matter of “national security,” so who knows what this term even means anymore.

Additionally, isn’t it cute that the U.S. government is so concerned with public officials’ personal privacy, yet shows no concern about the privacy of the citizenry?   Continue reading

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