Privacy

Stealing Our Sunshine

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It's Sunshine Week.

Seem like as good a time as any to look at the Bush administration's continuing efforts to duck Freedom of Information Act requests. Last summer, you might remember that in response to requests for White House emails related to political fundraising, the administration tried to argue that the White House Office of Administration wasn't subject to FOIA, despite the fact that the office has a compliance officer and had posted on its website guides to FOIA procedures.

In response to that and other complaints about the administration's paltry FOIA compliance, Congress passed a bill late last year setting up a FOIA ombudsman to serve as a liaison between federal agencies and FOIA petitioners. The ombudsman would report to the National Archives and Records Administration. Bush reluctantly signed the bill late last year, but just weeks later slid a provision into his budget proposal that would move the ombudsman to the Justice Department. The Justice Department represents the administration in FOIA litigation. In fact, the Washington Post reports that the entire administration is still under a DOJ directive from 2001 instructing all federal agencies to lose all legal channels available to duck as many FOIA requests as possible. Bush wants the ombudsman to report to the people doing everything they can to undermine the people the ombudsman is supposed to represent.

The Treasury Department seems to have gotten the memo. The Department is this year's winner of the "RoseMary Award," presented by the National Security Archive to the least transparent federal agency over the previous year. It's named after Rose Mary Woods, Richard Nixon's secretary who famously erased 18 1/2 minutes of Watergate tapes. The Treasury apparently routinely unceremoniously destroys FOIA requests after stalling on them for months, sometimes years, at a time. One request is 21 years old.

On the flip side, it look as if the Bush administration is ready to bring back Total Information Awareness, albeit under a new name and slightly different auspices, to get around the minor inconvenience that the original TIA was actually banned by Congress.

Privacy in this administration seems to only apply to people working in their official capacity for the government, while "transparency" only applies to the citizenry.

NEXT: No Bad Drugs

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  1. I know it up for me
    Not something hard to see

    heh

  2. Privacy in this administration seems to only apply to people working in their official capacity for the government, while “transparency” only applies to the citizenry.

    That sums up Bush the Lesser’s administration quite well. And, of course, it’s the exact opposite of what one would expect of a government in a free society.

  3. Sometime in the future, when we’re using solar on a larger scale, I predict environmentalists will spur headlines like this:

    “Big Sun” Investigated by Congress

    Greenpeace Says “We’re using up the Sun”

    Earth Liberation Front Members Bomb Solar Panels

    Anyone want to wager?

  4. If Obama convinces me that he will actually bring transparency to the Executive Branch, He’ll get my vote.

    Having never held an executive position there’s no track record to judge him by, so convincing me will be between difficult and impossible. But at least he talks the talk.

    I almost forgot, the Bush administration looks more criminal daily.

  5. The Libertarian Guy –

    Isn’t it embarrassing when you get lost in cyberspace?

  6. Sorry, TLG, contracts with the mentally impaired aren’t enforceable.

  7. Isn’t it embarrassing when you get lost in cyberspace????

  8. What wrong with the information you already got? Ain’t it good enough?

  9. ilanlar –
    Google is your friend. Use it.

  10. Dear ___________:

    We have reviewed your document request, and a decision has been reached.

    We would be happy to show you the documents you have asked to examine. Report to building “F” at the Guantanamo military base, and you will be allowed to peruse them to your little heart’s content. Bring your toothbrush; once you have accessed these vital State Secrets it will not be possible for you to return to the general population.

    George W Bush
    The White House

  11. FOIA doesn’t have an exception for “that’s embarrassing”. Unfortunately, invocations of “national security” generally are used to cover that sort of concern. Not, you know, actual things that need to be kept secret to protect national security. Which should be relatively few, in the overall operation of the government.

  12. If Obama convinces me that he will actually bring transparency to the Executive Branch, He’ll get my vote.

    That is what my vote is riding on as well. I am at least heartened that he made it a point to bring up the issue and make a commitment at a time when none of the other candidates in the wide field were saying peep about it.

    It’s an optimistic “wait and see”.

  13. I thought this would be a post about Montgomery Burns.

  14. J sub D,
    There’s a much better way to tell someone to use Google.

  15. Aresen,

    All posts are Montgomery Burns posts.

  16. “””On the flip side, it look as if the Bush administration is ready to bring back Total Information Awareness, albeit under a new name and slightly different auspices, to get around the minor inconvenience that the original TIA was actually banned by Congress. “””

    I’m not sure how the admin is bringing it back, it never disappeared.

  17. Tsu Dho Nihm –

    True. I’ll make a half hearted attempt to remember that address. Justfickinggooglit just might stick in my admittedly disturbed mind.

  18. I often think Clinton must feel like a real sucker now for cooperating with the other branches of government, when he could have just cowboyed up and let Janet Reno do the not-talking for him.

    I bet the next Prez, of whatever party, will not make that same mistake.

  19. DannyK,

    Clinton did more than his share of expanding executive authority. It’s vogue for presidents to do that, one way or the other. Clinton gave us the prototype legislation for a good chunk of the USA Patriot Act, after all. Among other good deeds.

    The truth is, the type of presidents we are consistently electing are going to fill and expand whatever the balloon of executive power will allow.

  20. “””On the flip side, it look as if the Bush administration is ready to bring back Total Information Awareness, albeit under a new name and slightly different auspices, to get around the minor inconvenience that the original TIA was actually banned by Congress. “””

    I’m not sure how the admin is bringing it back, it never disappeared.

    No, it didn’t–it was merely transformed from an entity that, however objectionable, was at least publicially debatable, into several entities that are entirely hidden from view.

    So-called civil libertarians who were happy about this development should search their dictionaries for the term “Pyrrhic victory.”

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