National Security

Obama Administration Continues to Make a Mockery of FOIA

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The Obama Administration is once again fucking with the Freedom of Information Act, this time at the Department of Defense. In May, after a White House staffer told reporters that a picture of a dead Osama bin Laden had been taken for identification purposes, Politico's Ken Vogel filed a FOIA request for "any and all photographs/video footage of Osama bin Laden taken by United States military or intelligence personnel during or following the U.S. action in Abbottabad…on May 1, including but not limited to photographs taken at the scene of the action, and those taken afterwards, aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson." 

Vogel is not the only reporter to have requested the dead OBL pic, but as far as I know, he's the only person who posted the DoD's response online. Here's the relevant part: 

The Office of the Secretary of Defense/Joint Staff FOIA Office is responding on behalf of the entire Department of Defense to all FOIA requests within the DoD for information related to the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. Therefore, they will respond directly to you concerning the FOIA request that you sent us. 

The Freedom of Information Act legally requires federal agencies to share information with journalists, law firms, public advocacy groups, and other curious requesters so long as it's not classified, a threat to national security, or pertaining to personnel issues (under the personnel exemption, the DoD can legally reject requests for its parking lot rules). Responding to FOIA requests is the job of nonpartisan career FOIA employees, who are prohibited from taking into consideration the motives or affiliations of requesters, or whether or not the information in question could possibly embarrass their superiors. If the information can legally be released, career FOIA employees know they must release it. 

The above DoD letter suggests that the Obama Administration is interfering in that process. Nonpartisan career FOIA employees at the DoD can't be trusted to respond to requests in a manner consistent with the White House's declaration that it will not release photos of OBL, so Secretary Robert Gates, who serves at the pleasure of the president, will have his personal FOIA staff vet all such requests.

This wouldn't be the first time a senior administration official had interefered in the FOIA process. The House Oversight Committee investigated the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year after a whistleblower revealed that Secretary Janet Napolitano's inner circle was vetting FOIA requests. Among the revelations: A former Obama campaign worker (and a number of other political hires) had been tasked with reviewing information requests from conservative groups.

If that was bad, the behavior of the DHS legal team was even worse. After a hearing, one DHS lawyer physically grabbed evidence obtained by the oversight committee and shoved it in his bag, telling the committee: 

As counsel for DHS, I object to counsel for the committee's refusal to allow exhibits they had shown to the witness and that all are e-mail messages from DHS personnel to DHS personnel on their official DHS-issued accounts and use of e-mail services. These are not committee records, these are, rather, DHS records; and so there is no reason the committee should be able to prevent us from taking them, since they have shown them to the witness and used them in this interview.

I mean, I guess I would note also for the record that because the committee – because the records have no origination nor creation or editing by the committee, other than redactions, it seems to me the committee has no reason to be able to exercise any control over those documents, and that they retain the nature of being DHS documents.

The DoD seems to be playing a similar game. Regardless of whether it's verifiably true that the OBL photo(s) pose a threat to national security, it's Obama's preference that the pictures remain unseen by the general public.  

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36 responses to “Obama Administration Continues to Make a Mockery of FOIA

  1. After a hearing, one DHS lawyer physically grabbed evidence obtained by the oversight committee and shoved it in his bag

    And, that would be one lawyer being frogmarched out of the building for contempt of Congress and whatever else Committee Chair Dean could get to stick. Up to and including a criminal complaint and a complaint to the DC bar.

    After having his briefcase emptied out onto the table, of course.

    1. Well RC, Reid Cox, if it is the Reid Cox I am thinking of, is an environmental lawyer from Arizona and part of Napolitano’s mafia. Somehow and environmental lawyer ended up doing FOIA work. That pretty much tells you what he was brought in to do, and it wasn’t to dutifully and impartially interpret FOIA.

      Very few things changed at DHS when Obama came in. But one thing that did change, at OGC at least, was there were a ton of political appointees with no particular job except being “special counsel to the Secretary” were brought in. I guess we know now what they were there to do.

    2. One other thing changed RC. Under Bush, at least the last two years, the Congress belonged to the other party and the belway media hated the administration. That tended to keep the politicals on their toes. All the Bush people were scared by Katrina and were terrified of being called to the carpet by Congress or the media.

      The Obama people in contrast lived in a world where their own party owned Congress and the media was an arm of the DNC. Consiquently, they just didn’t give a fuck. It wasn’t so much that they overtly did corrupt things. It was more that they did whatever the hell they wanted to and didn’t worry. For example, during the Gulf Oil spill there was a problem with the Coast Guard Regulations that prevented oil skimmers from being shifted to the Gulf. Under the Bush the media and or Congress would have crushed them over the lack of skimmers and the regulation would have been changed in about a week. Under Obama, it took until mid July for it to happen because no one really cared or had any real sense of urgency about responding to the spill. That is how Washington works, if Congress or the media doesn’t call someone in charge to the carpet over it, the bureaucracy takes its time doing it.

      1. About what I would have expected, of course.

        Its a personality thing, I guess. I just won’t tolerate people, lawyers especially, getting all thuggish. I’ve thrown them out of meetings, I’ve terminated depositions, and just generally won’t put up with it.

        Why the chair of a freakin’ Congressional oversight committee just sat there with his thumb up his ass while some jumped-up goon with a degree and suit actually seized evidence from right in front of him, I’ll just never understand.

        1. I don’t understand it either RC. The thing that most surprised me is how friendly the politicals are with each other. The staffs will be at each other’s throats. And the politicals, behind the scenes will egg that on. But put two politicals face to face and they will kiss each other’s asses and allow virtually anything to happen under their noses. I really hate Washington. The more I am there, the more I realize how sick the government is.

          1. Yeah, I’ve pretty much gotten out of the lobbying business because I was having a hard time concealing my contempt for the people I had to deal with.

          2. The real parties are “Incumbents” and “everyone else.”

    3. Did the evidence consist of big wads of cash?

  2. Bit of a threadjack. But it is too late for the morning links and this is a must read. Salon runs a letter explaining in detail how there is a lot more fossil fuel out there than we thought just a few years ago and the worst global warming scenerios are unlikely to happen. Therefore the age of fossil fuel has just begun not ended. Hillarity ensues in the comments. Careful reading them, the stupid can rub off.

    http://letters.salon.com/polit…../?show=all

    1. For all everyone bitches about the commenters at HuffPo, the commentariat at Salon is about ten times worse. Really, “Ask the Pilot” is the only reason to ever go to that site.

      1. Yeah. The Huffpo at least has some good celeb gosip guilty pleasure smut stuff in it. Since Paglia quit writing, I honestly can’t see why anyone would read Salon. And yes, their comenters are the worst.

        1. Greenwald is often interesting, even when I passionately disagree with him.

          1. John hates GG. I have no idea why, he’s like the least bad progressive I can think of.

            1. Kuchinich isn’t so bad, if only because whenever you disagree with him you can say, “but chemtrails!!”

    2. Peak Oil was, is and will always be, a SCAM, just like global warming.

      1. True. But Peak Anti-Freeze is a damn fine product.

        http://www.speedshow.co.nz/adm…..3-peak.jpg

        1. Just don’t mix it up with the toothpaste.

  3. I am going to be on Reason like George Foreman on a triple cheeseburger until I get an answer to this question:

    Did I miss where Reason was all over this story or do the Hit & Run editors not find it newsworthy that Rand Paul doesn’t believe in the first amendment?

    http://www.salon.com/news/opin…..index.html

    “But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.”

    1. Ouch.
      Bad enough to agree to appear on Hannity, but this one is a pretty big misstep if he wants to maintain his “don’t tread on me” cred.

  4. this would be the most transparent administration. Ever.

    Win The Future?

    1. Thus, why should any person waste any energy criticizing those who want Obama to produce his brith certificate, his Occidental College, Columbia and Harvard applications, transcripts and any other school records.

      If you want to run a Papers Please society and you paint yourself as being open and transparent, you cough up the goods. Period. No questions asked. Otherwise, people begin to think that you are one mendacious negro with lots of stuff to hide.

  5. The Office of the Secretary of Defense/Joint Staff FOIA Office is responding on behalf of the entire Department of Defense to all FOIA requests within the DoD for information related to the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. Therefore, they will respond directly to you concerning the FOIA request that you sent us.

    I am really trying hard, but I just can’t get upset that they are routing all requests for one topic through one office. I think they will have a hard time justifying that all of this information be classified, but this little bureaucratic canned response is hardly a conspiracy in the making.

    1. I agree. You have to understand how FOIA works. In the day and age of email, 14 different agencies will have copies of the same shit. If you have a lot of interagency work on something, people in five different agencies will have a copy of a single document. And some documents may only exist at one agency. It makes sense and is standard practice for one agency to be the lead and put together the response.

      1. In the day and age of email

        Email is older then the FOIA.

    2. “”I think they will have a hard time justifying that all of this information be classified,””

      It is classified, and it’s classification is also classified so they can’t tell you if it is or not. 😉

  6. Obama Administration Continues to Make a Mockery of FOIA

    You get what you vote for.

    1. One mendacious mulatto. A piece of socialist scum. Not to mention, a real racist, for, after all, he is an affirmative action beneficiary who supports affirmative action, racial set asides, coerced collection and maintenance of racial statistics.

      Moreover, if you are not a racist, and you are black, you absolutely condemn the notion that property of another should be confiscated so that we can have black history month.

  7. Bad enough to agree to appear on Hannity, but this one is a pretty big misstep if he wants to maintain his “don’t tread on me” cred.

    Since he said “deported,” he obviously means visa visitors or citizen immigrants, who enter/stay under the explicit condition that they won’t do shit like that. It’s right there in the oath thingy they affirm/say/sign.

    Greenwald’s not good at not misrepresenting everything.

    1. To put it in easier terms, Greenwald is quite good at misrepresenting everything.

      1. So he didn’t also say “prison” in addition to “deport”?

        1. As one hell of a lot of illegals in CA can attest, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, as in prison term then deport.

  8. I guess I would note also for the record that because the committee ? because the records have no origination nor creation or editing by the committee, other than redactions, it seems to me the committee has no reason to be able to exercise any control over those documents, and that they retain the nature of being DHS documents.

    WTF?

  9. WTF? (cont’d)

    I wonder how the Senate Banking Committee would react if Goldman Sachs’ or GE Capital’s attorneys tried that?

    1. But Reid is one of the good guys Brooks. So it is okay. It is a really fucking bad idea to let one party run both Congress and the Exectutive at the same time.

  10. I said in early May, and continue to believe that the DoD will sit on and stonewall all FOIA requests relating to OBL until later in the 2012 campaign, when Obama needs a “warrior savior of the nation” boost.

  11. Sandy Berger, where are you?

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