Monday, October 31, 2011

Why is Obama Trying to Weaken the Freedom of Information Act?

Wasn't Obama supposed to make the government all about transparency?  As always, it seems to make sense to take a look at what he does and not what he says (or should I say, "reads").  Here are some of the changes Obama is making to the Freedom of Information Act (h/t Sunlight Foundation):

  • deny requests that aren't addressed to precisely the correct department (16.3 (a))
  • summarily dismiss requests if they deem the wording too vague (16.3 (c))
  • automatically apply exclusions to FOIA whenever it can (16.4 (a))
  • be able to hide what part of the agency is responsible for filling requests (16.4 (e))
  • reset their deadlines for responses any time they refer requests among departments (16.5 (a))
  • make it more difficult for requests to be deemed urgent (16.5 (e))
  • insulate department heads from having to stand by denials (16.6 (d))
  • lie, and claim records do not exist, when they do (16.6 (f))
  • remove the ability for the courts to oversee how DOJ applies some exclusions (16.6 (f))
  • make it easier for businesses to declare that information is a trade secret (16.7)
  • be able to destroy records that might be responsive to FOIA requests (16.9)
  • ignore your request for information to be given in a specified format (16.9(a)(3))
  • disqualify most schools from getting FOIA fees waived (16.9(a)(4))
  • exclude new media from getting fees waived (16.10(a)(6))
  • make it easier to deny fee waivers (16.10(k)(2)(iii))
Basically, they want the right to lie about the very existence of documents, don't want you to know which bureaucrats are even saying no, want less judicial oversight and want to be able to use shredders.  Awesome!  Even the ACLU has said this would dramatically undermine government integrity.  Between this and his desire to go around Congress to "get things done" some people might wonder if he has certain dictatorial fantasies.

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