Wednesday, March 18, 2015

During Sunshine Week, White House confirms exemption of one of its offices from records law

While journalists across the country are celebrating Sunshine Week and promoting open government and freedom of information, the White House on Tuesday "removed a longstanding government-transparency rule that the George W. Bush administration first opposed, exempting President Obama’s Office of Administration from records requests," Josh Hicks reports for The Washington Post.

"White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday characterized the rule change as a matter of cleaning up outdated regulations, noting that a federal court decided nearly six years ago that the Office of Administration is not subject to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act)," Hicks writes. Earnest said the move " has no impact at all on the policy that we have maintained from the beginning to comply with the Freedom of Information Act when it’s appropriate.”

Advocates of open government are critical of the move, especially since Obama promised to run the most transparent fedreal government in history, Hicks writes. Anne Weismann, executive director of
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a statement: “This step makes mockery of the administration’s commitment to transparency, especially given that it’s Sunshine Week. Apparently they have abandoned even the appearance of transparency.”

For years the Office of Administration complied with FOIA requests before the Bush administration stopped the practice, prompting a lawsuit by CREW, Hicks writes. "The Obama White House has not released any records from the office under FOIA, using the court decision to justify its policy." (Read more)

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