Surprise: FOIA lawsuits up 28 percent over Bush years in Obama’s first term
posted at 1:11 pm on January 23, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham
The number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed against the federal government has increased dramatically under the Obama administration, according to a December study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
A comparison between the last two years of President George W. Bush’s second term and the last two years of President Barack Obama’s first term shows FOIA lawsuits jumped by 28 percent, TRAC reports.
FOIA lawsuits are filed to challenge denials of records requests or the use of exemptions of information by federal agencies.
The number of FOIA lawsuits filed against the State Department rose by 111 percent in those time periods, from 18 to 38. FOIA lawsuits rose by 60 percent at both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the Department of Justice saw an increase by 50 percent.
In characteristic Obama administration style, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder made sweeping promises about reforming FOIA procedures and issued memoranda. Holder then did nothing to achieve those changes, and even abetted regression:
A government-wide audit performed by the National Security Archives found 62 of 99 federal agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations since Attorney General Eric Holder issued a 2009 memorandum instructing them to do so.
The audit also revealed that 56 agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations since the passage of the OPEN Government Act of 2007, which mandated agencies retool their FOIA offices, including fee structures and reporting.
Holder has done little to implement those guidelines four years after issuing them, and his Justice Department has defended all agencies that choose to withhold information from the public, a report on FOIAproject.org found.
[I]t’s not that hard for administrators that care to do so to comply with Obama’s transparency promises and directives, but they were directives issued without any teeth in them — it was pretty much just a showy request, and Obama isn’t bothering to make sure anything is being done about it. I believe the golfing terminology is “follow-through.”
A by-no-means exhaustive list of previous transparency problems:
But, hey, in the words of the most admired woman in America, “What difference does it make?”