Obama administration denied, censored more FOIA requests in 2013 than it approved

Associated Press | National Security Archive

The Obama Administration cited national security when withholding information from FOIA requests more than 8,000 times in 2013, the Associated Press reports. That’s a “57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama’s first year, when it cited that reason 3,658 times,” Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum write.

The overall number of requests to which the government replied was up 2 percent, but government figures show “the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records,” they write. Sometimes the government told AP it just couldn’t find information:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, whose top official has testified to Congress repeatedly about NSA surveillance programs disclosed by contractor Edward Snowden, told the AP it couldn’t find any records or emails in its offices asking other federal agencies to be on the lookout for journalists to whom Snowden provided classified materials. British intelligence authorities had detained one reporter’s partner for nine hours at Heathrow airport and questioned him under terrorism laws. DNI James Clapper has at least twice publicly described the reporters as “accomplices” to Snowden, who is charged under the U.S. Espionage Act and faces up to 30 years in prison.

Attorney General Eric Holder “strongly” encouraged federal agencies “to make discretionary disclosures of information.” And yet the U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t updated its FOIA guidelines since 2003, George Washington University’s National Security Archive found in an audit.

The justice department has plenty of company in adopting a “glacial” approach to FOIA regulations: “Nearly half (50 out of 101) of all federal agencies have still not updated their Freedom of Information Act regulations to comply with Congress’s 2007 FOIA amendments, and even more agencies (55 of 101) have FOIA regulations that predate and ignore President Obama’s and Attorney General Holder’s 2009 guidance for a “presumption of disclosure,” according to the new National Security Archive FOIA Audit released today to mark Sunshine Week,” its most recent report says.

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  • sargeh

    What else would one expect of this “transparent” presidency?