Media files FOIA requests for data

A slew of Freedom of Information Act requests from several news outlets targeting the website are underway, as the White House is continuing to treat the site like a matter of national security.

The Hil:

CNN, ABC, MSNBC and others have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking information on the beleaguered website. They have also asked for government documents revealing how many people have enrolled in the new healthcare exchanges.  

Journalists have repeatedly pressed the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the enrollment data, but the administration says it won't do so until mid-November. 

Republicans have noted that President Obama has dropped hints he is aware of the enrollment figures. In a recent speech, Obama said "thousands" have signed up. He later indicated that signing up has gotten easier since the website's launch.

Many of the media's FOIA requests are similar, focusing on the website and/or the enrollment data.

For example, MSNBC asks for the "up to date number of people who have enrolled in the government's healthcare exchanges set up by the [Affordable Care Act.]"

ABC News seeks "the documents detailing and describing the actual and potential costs associated with addressing flaws in [the] website from Oct. 1, 2013 to Oct. 21, 2013."

Some media outlets have asked for internal e-mail communications between key administration officials on the implementation of ObamaCare. 

It's unlikely that these FOIA requests will be granted any time soon. Government processing of FOIA requests can take weeks, months or years. However, HHS moves quicker than other government entities on FOIA. 

Still, the HHS FOIA office won't be releasing enrollment data before mid November, especially after senior administration officials have suggested they need to first vet the data to ensure its accuracy.

Good luck with that, guys. The administration is taking better care of Obamacare secrets than they did with NSA surveillance targets.

Congress is also agitating for the data, with one difference; they have the power of subpoena. The Government Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa has already requested documents related to the technical snafus and the House Ways and Means Committee is mulling the possibility of subpoena for records relating to the administration's internal deliberations about the site.

They can't keep sitting on the numbers forever. No doubt they are waiting for some distraction - a news story that will suck all the air out of the room and make the enrollment figures a minor story for that news cycle.