White House deep-sixes transparency regs on the worst possible day

What on Earth can account for the White House choosing the confluence of “National Freedom of Information Day” and Sunshine Week to remove a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act?  Is it a self-conscious sly single-digit salute to critics currently upset over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's mass deletion of e-mails?  Or could it be that the move was hastily taken to foreclose queries that might trace a Clintonian cover-up (for example, on Benghazi) back to the White House?

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll probably never know.  But it looks bad, really bad, even to Soros-funded leftists like CREW.  Gregory Korte of USA Today reports:

"The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me," said Anne Weismann of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

"It is completely out of step with the president's supposed commitment to transparency," she said. "That is a critical office, especially if you want to know, for example, how the White House is dealing with e-mail."

A door is formally closing:

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.

But in fairness, it was the Bush administration that first asserted its right to not respond:

That happened late in the Bush administration, when CREW sued over e-mails deleted by the White House — as many as 22 million of them, by one accounting. The White House at first began to comply with that request, but then reversed course.

"The government made an argument in an effort to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the lawsuit in order to stop the archiving of White House e-mails," said Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has used similar requests to shed light on foreign policy decisions.

A federal court supported non-responsiveness:

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.

However, it was the Obama administration that took the official step to change its regulations, formally closing the door, and precluding all requests.  Up until now, it has been a case-by-case issue, with many requests (for example, the homebrew beer recipe supposedly used by President Obama himself) granted.  Those days are over, and yesterday, FOIA Day, was chosen to announce it:

 In a notice to be published in Tuesday's Federal Register, the White House says it's removing regulations on how the Office of Administration complies with Freedom of Information Act Requests based on "well-settled legal interpretations."

The rule change means that there will no longer be a formal process for the public to request that the White House voluntarily disclose records as part of what's known as a "discretionary disclosure." Records released by the Office of Administration voluntarily include White House visitor logs and the recipe for beer brewed at the White House.

The move precludes the necessity of turning down future requests.  This suggests to me that some requests that would be embarrassing to refuse are being anticipated.

What on Earth can account for the White House choosing the confluence of “National Freedom of Information Day” and Sunshine Week to remove a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act?  Is it a self-conscious sly single-digit salute to critics currently upset over former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's mass deletion of e-mails?  Or could it be that the move was hastily taken to foreclose queries that might trace a Clintonian cover-up (for example, on Benghazi) back to the White House?

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll probably never know.  But it looks bad, really bad, even to Soros-funded leftists like CREW.  Gregory Korte of USA Today reports:

"The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me," said Anne Weismann of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

"It is completely out of step with the president's supposed commitment to transparency," she said. "That is a critical office, especially if you want to know, for example, how the White House is dealing with e-mail."

A door is formally closing:

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.

But in fairness, it was the Bush administration that first asserted its right to not respond:

That happened late in the Bush administration, when CREW sued over e-mails deleted by the White House — as many as 22 million of them, by one accounting. The White House at first began to comply with that request, but then reversed course.

"The government made an argument in an effort to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the lawsuit in order to stop the archiving of White House e-mails," said Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has used similar requests to shed light on foreign policy decisions.

A federal court supported non-responsiveness:

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.

However, it was the Obama administration that took the official step to change its regulations, formally closing the door, and precluding all requests.  Up until now, it has been a case-by-case issue, with many requests (for example, the homebrew beer recipe supposedly used by President Obama himself) granted.  Those days are over, and yesterday, FOIA Day, was chosen to announce it:

 In a notice to be published in Tuesday's Federal Register, the White House says it's removing regulations on how the Office of Administration complies with Freedom of Information Act Requests based on "well-settled legal interpretations."

The rule change means that there will no longer be a formal process for the public to request that the White House voluntarily disclose records as part of what's known as a "discretionary disclosure." Records released by the Office of Administration voluntarily include White House visitor logs and the recipe for beer brewed at the White House.

The move precludes the necessity of turning down future requests.  This suggests to me that some requests that would be embarrassing to refuse are being anticipated.