Transparency

White House Wins in FOIA Email Case

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A federal judge gives the White House cover in hiding how it lost millions of emails:

A federal judge ruled Monday that a White House office that has records about millions of possibly missing e-mails does not have to make them public.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly says the Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, enabling the White House to maintain the secrecy of a lengthy internal paper trail about its problem-plagued e-mail system.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed against the administration by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a private group that has been trying to find out the extent of the White House's e- mail problems for more than a year.

The functions of the Office of Administration "are strictly administrative," Kollar-Kotelly ruled.

Kollar-Kotelly said the Office of Administration has no authority over others in the executive branch and that the office is exclusively dedicated to providing services to the Executive Office of the President. Since its creation in 1978, the Office of Administration has responded to FOIA requests. But the Bush White House reversed that policy in August 2007 in the lawsuit filed by CREW.

Just so we're clear, here: The purpose of FOIA is to make the federal government more accountable and transparent. For 30 years, the Office of Administration has been subject to FOIA. But once they discovered that the Office of Administration may have paperwork showing how or why the Bush administration was able to dispose of millions of possibly incriminating emails, the White House conveniently decided the office was no longer subject to FOIA.

And a federal judge has now agreed, ruling that because the office is "strictly administrative" in function it can ignore FOIA requests, even if it has information that could show wrongdoing on the part of officials in the executive.