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?