Behold, the most Hopenchange™ story ever, via USA Today:
The White House is removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, making official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office. The White House said the cleanup of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings that hold that the office is not subject to the transparency law. The office handles, among other things, White House record-keeping duties like the archiving of e-mails. But the timing of the move raised eyebrows among transparency advocates, coming on National Freedom of Information Day and during a national debate over the preservation of Obama administration records. It’s also Sunshine Week, an effort by news organizations and watchdog groups to highlight issues of government transparency.
Rolling out this decision during “Sunshine Week” wasn’t enough, evidently; they picked National Freedom of Information Day to make their move — smack in the middle of a national firestorm over email archiving and obsessive secrecy. Once one has accepted a transparency award in secret, one must invent new ways to make a mockery of the alleged “touchstone” of one’s administration. Mission accomplished. This White House fetishizes its own “unprecedented” accomplishments, and it seems they’ve minted another one:
Unlike other offices within the White House, which were always exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, the Office of Administration responded to FOIA requests for 30 years. Until the Obama administration, watchdog groups on the left and the right used records from the office to shed light on how the White House works. “This is an office that operated under the FOIA for 30 years, and when it became politically inconvenient, they decided they weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act any more,” said Tom Fitton of the conservative Judicial Watch.
Obama sycophants will justify the new codified opacity with two arguments: Bush did it first, and the courts said it was okay. “But Bush” is always an interesting argument coming from the crew that sold themselves to voters as the anti-Bush brigade. Obama made a big show of making a clean break from the bad old days upon taking office, then proceeded to embrace — and double down on — some of the practices he harshly criticized as a Senator and presidential candidate (see: arrogating executive power, bypassing Congress, signing statements, transparency, etc). It’s also true that the judicial branch cleared this change as legal…six years ago:
In 2009, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled that the Office of Administration was not subject to the FOIA, “because it performs only operational and administrative tasks in support of the president and his staff and therefore, under our precedent, lacks substantial independent authority.” The appeals court ruled that the White House was required to archive the e-mails, but not release them under the FOIA. Instead, White House e-mails must be released under the Presidential Records Act — but not until at least five years after the end of the administration…The White House did not explain why it waited nearly six years to formally acknowledge the court ruling in its regulations.
I’m sure they have their reasons. Stop badgering them with these questions. I’ll leave you with this:
A new study from the Columbia Journalism Review finds that the current White House relationship with the press is the least open it has ever been, a longstanding belief among the Washington press corps. A review of every official exchange President Barack Obama has had with the press in 2014 in addition to interviews with more than a dozen reporters “reveals a White House determined to conceal its workings from the press, and by extension, the public,” the report reads. In his few interactions with the press, Obama gives long answers, leaving little time for other questions, and rarely makes news, often punting to later announcements, the study found. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stopped holding off-the-record gaggles in the mornings in his office “because reporters would just stand around tweeting everything Earnest said,” according to CJR.
Can things get worse? Sure can.