The Obama Administration has set a new record for the number of times it has failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, the Associated Press reported Friday.
“In more than one in six cases, or 129,825 times, government searchers said they came up empty-handed last year,” according to the AP.
People who submitted FOIA requests in 2015 received either censored material or none at all 77 percent of the time. That figure is up from 65 percent during President Obama’s first year in office. Even that year, the administration got off to poor start by using FOIA exemptions 466,402 times the National Press Club reported, which was a 50 percent increase over the last year George W. Bush was in office, RT.com reported.
Some exemptions include: Information classified to protect national security; documents related solely the internal practices of the agency; inter-agency and intra-agency memorandum, which would be privileged in civil litigation; and certain information that is compiled for law enforcement purposes.
Many in the media have been highly critical of the Obama’s administration’s unresponsiveness to FOIA requests, particularly after the president promised to be the most transparent executive branch in history. AP editor Ted Bridis tweeted on Friday:
Former CBS News investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last summer that “FOIA law was intended to facilitate the timely release of public information. Instead, federal officials have perverted it and use it to obfuscate, obstruct and delay,” she said. “The broken system is not by accident, it’s by design.”
Vice News reporter Jason Leopold testified that Obama administration officials are not doing what the law requires. “Often, information delayed is information denied,” he said. “I have submitted thousands of FOIA requests to dozens of different agencies, and in my experience, fewer than one percent of my requests have been decided within the timeframe required by FOIA.”
“It seems like they’re doing the minimal amount of work they need to do,” Leopold told the AP. “I just don’t believe them. I really question the integrity of their search.”
“The website Gawker took legal action against the State Department after the agency responded to a request in 2013 saying that it could not find any emails that ex-Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines sent to reporters. The agency later turned up 90,000 such messages,” the Washington Free Beaconreported.
As reported by Western Journalism, Judicial Watch took the Obama administration’s State Department to court over its failure to reply to its FOIA requests regarding Clinton and some of her aides at the agency. Federal District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, sided with the government watchdog group.
“There has been a constant drip, drip, drip of declarations [from the State Department]. When does it stop?” the judge said last month from the bench. “This case is about the public’s right to know.”
Sullivan also said the department’s handling of the email controversy has created at least a “reasonable suspicion” the public’s access to documents under FOIA has been undermined.