White House Not Subject to FOIA?


Via commenter Shawn Smith, the Justice Department is responding to a lawsuit regarding some 5 million missing White House emails dating from 2003 to 2005 by arguing that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. As Ed Brayton notes, that's more than a bit odd, considering…

The Department of Justice list of contacts for FOIA requests includes a contact person in the Office of Administration; her name is Carol Ehrlich and she even has a title—FOIA officer. How odd that an agency that is not subject to the FOIA would have an FOIA officer to handle requests they're not subject to.

Even more odd that the White House website has documentation on the Office of Administration answering FOIA requests (here's the report for FY 2006). Indeed, the White House website for the Office of Administration contains a whole section on FOIA requests, including a list of documents that were "specifically identified for inclusion by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as well as documents for which we have received multiple FOIA requests.

In fact, they have a whole document with their administrative rules for how they comply with FOIA requests and that document requires the Office of Administration to comply with FOIA rules.

As Brayton explains, what the Justice Department probably meant to argue is that the White House Office of Administration should be exempt from FOIA requests when the Justice Department and the White House determine that those requests could be politically damaging to the president.

But that's a tougher point to argue. What more would you expect from the most secretive administration in U.S. history?

NEXT: "The issue at hand is 'Strippers for Ron Paul.'"

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  1. Is this really happening?

  2. Taktix?,

    Yes, and there is also the parallel Republican National Committee e-mail system called used by the Administration officials supposedly for strictly political purposes(the Hatch Act precludes political work using government resources including e-mail).

    Karl Rove uses for 95% of his e-mail per the cite. Some technical glitch (no shenanigans involved at all) caused many of these e-mail to be “lost.”

    If Rove, for example, used for any policy related work (something like discussing US Attorneys and what should be done about those that are not toeing the line), well that would be a violation of the Presidential Records Act. I’m sure that would never happen, though.


    PS – Besides claiming that the White House e-mails are exempt from the FOIA, they also claim the RNC e-mails are too.

  3. How about those travel office documents?


  4. Sounds to me their acting like congress Radley.

  5. It will be interesting to see how many of those same people will say the White House is subject to FOIA if Hillary is elected.

  6. I’m confused. Are they FOIA’ing the emails? How would the RNC fall under the FOIA?

  7. This is just disgusting.

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