Obama agencies invoking secrecy provision more often than under Bush

By John Byrne
Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 -- 9:14 am

obamaface20090612 Obama agencies invoking secrecy provision more often than under BushOne day after being sworn into office, President Barack Obama instructed federal agencies to ensure government transparency by complying with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act law.

"All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government," Obama wrote in a memo to federal agencies Jan. 21, 2009. "The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA."

"The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public," the newly-installed president continued. "They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and down by their Government. Disclosure should be timely."

One year later, Obama's requests for transparency have apparently gone unheeded. In fact a provision in the Freedom of Information Act law that allows the government to hide records that detail its internal decision-making has been invoked by Obama agencies more often in the past year than during the final year of President George W. Bush.

Major agencies cited that exemption to refuse records at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, compared with 47,395 times during President George W. Bush's final full budget year, according to annual FOIA reports filed by federal agencies.

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An Associated Press review of Freedom of Information Act reports filed by 17 major agencies found that the use of nearly every one of the law's nine exemptions to withhold information from the public rose in fiscal year 2009, which ended last October.

The AP review comes on the heels of another bit of government transparency news: that the Obama Administration has threatened to veto a congressional intelligence bill because it objects to efforts to increase intelligence oversight.

Among other things, the proposed legislation would subject intelligence agencies to General Accountability Office review. US intelligence agencies are currently immune from review by the Congressional auditing office.

Departments used the government decision making exemption more even though Obama's Justice Department told agencies to that disclosing such records was "fully consistent with the purpose of the FOIA," a law intended to keep government accountable to the public.

For example, the Federal Aviation Administration cited the exemption in refusing the AP's FOIA request for internal memos on its decisions about a database showing incidents in which airplanes and birds collided. The FAA initially tried to withhold the bird-strike database from the public, but later released it under pressure.

The FAA claimed the same exemption to hold back nearly all records on its approval of an Air Force One flyover of New York City for publicity shots — a flight that prompted fears in the city of a Sept. 11-style attack. It also withheld internal communications during the aftermath of the public relations gaffe.

In all, major agencies cited that or other FOIA exemptions to refuse information at least 466,872 times in budget year 2009, compared with 312,683 times the previous year, the review found. Agencies often cite more than one exemption when withholding part or all of the material sought in an open-records request.

All told, the 17 agencies reviewed by AP reported getting 444,924 FOIA requests in fiscal 2009, compared with 493,610 in fiscal 2008."

The AP examined the 2008 and 2009 budget year FOIA reports from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Federal Reserve Board.

Other FOIA exemptions cover information on national defense and foreign relations, internal agency rules and practices, trade secrets, personal privacy, law enforcement proceedings, supervision of financial institutions and geological information on wells.

One, known as Exemption 3, covers dozens of types of information that Congress shielded from disclosure when passing other laws.

With AP.

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  • Jhoffa_
    SAME you can believe in...
  • Vic Anderson
    Totally duplicitous Big Brother double-speaking DESPOTU.S. : Obamanible!
  • Mooftown
    I need to know more about this provision, and why exactly they used it, form the white house themselfs.
  • braind
    Move on republican christian war criminal sheeple of amerika... nothing to see here.....
  • Spire
    Dear Fellow Saps,
    Shocking? This is shocking.

    "Obama threatens to Veto proposed second probe into 2001 Anthrax attacks."

    There is no way I will call Obama an Uncle Tom, but I am considering Uncle Dick.
    Or maybe it is best configured differently, as in Obama was actually a Trojan Horse bringing with him all the crap from the bowels of the last administration but in a polished, handsome exterior. Either way, we're being screwed from both ends.
  • Spire
    Ha Ha. I get it. At first I thought you were really shocked, re: headline. But then I thought of Casablanca, when C. Raines says something like, Gambling? Here? I'm shocked. And so your headline was facetious, a twist of irony, a joke. Ha. Right? Obama's more secret than Bush? "No. I'm Shocked!" Ha ha. You did mean it that way, didn't you?
  • vince j
    His campain slogan was "yes we can!", it was plagiarized from the Latino protest slogan "Si, se puede!".
    Watch last DemocracyNow.org program. There is an excellent interview with professor Noam Chomsky on Obama.
    Obama is just a brand that got everybody sucked in.
  • vince j
    OABAMA... the 'short change' you can believe in!
  • Don't expect sincere help from the congress or the mainstream media; only a serious boycott will suffice.. Starve the beast.
  • vince j
    Brand "Obama" say something, Obama does the oposite.
    Obama is just another War Crminal in the WH who is subordinate to the Military Congressional Industrial Complex. He unswers to them only. Remember his 'cuting expenses' speach? He was very clear then that the "defense" (Imperial militarism) did not make part of these cuts.

    Stop the overblown, overstreched and unchecked Pentagon budget.
    Accountability for War Crminals such as Chenney, Rice, Perle, Feith, Yoo, Bybee, Wolfowitz, Rove, the idiotic spoilled brat Bush, and Obama, Clinton, Rahm, and the rest of this backstabing incompetent administration.
  • Joe
    LOL, why does this site label headlines like this with SHOCKER!?

    when are you going to stop projecting on to Obama what you wish him to be and wake up to what he actually is?
  • EmbeddedLobbyism
    This is political journalism. Our government is massive, with many independent agencies and not under as direct order of the president as politicos would like it to be.

    More interesting to note is that:

    1) Obama made a call to people to bombard information requests, all valid after that Bush administration of 8 years.

    2) An increase in activism leads to an increase of request being turned down at agencies.
  • Jack Jackalone
    I'll still take this administration anyday over what we had with the last administration, dems are for the people and neocons are for money and profits.
  • kucinich2012
    Uh....there's a difference?!
  • Joe
    My favorite thing about these zombie Regressives is that they say things like "Democrats are spineless and pushovers" because there is absolutely no way they will believe that the Democrats are bought and paid for by the same corporations!! They are just scared to stand up to the evil Republicans. LOL. Naive dumbasses. Have fun on your merry-go-round!!
  • trevinla
    but did you really think you were taking the better of two evils or did you believe there would be some change?

    the only thing different is which corporations are getting the government handouts and who gets the dying middle classes cash...

    will we be enslaved by the financial and military complexes or will the medical industrial complex get a share? that is what the 2012 election will decide unless we primary this lying....
  • joblo
    Saying one thing and doing another does nothing for the people. Don't you get that?
    Just because there is an association with the name democrat of social justice etc. doesn't mean shit. It's an empty name, Democrat. Nothing is better or worse because it is the same. If Obama protects those who allowed torture, is it better for us? If he hides the governments activities from us the same as bush, is it better for us? that's like judging a book by its cover. Look at your comment and think about that.

    Just because he is on your team, and not one of the other guys, is that why it's better?
    F*cking duh! It's not about left vs. right. It's about NWO vs. everyone else. Comments as ignorant as yours are the reason we're in this mess. BARACK OBAMA IS A CRIMINAL AND WILL BE TRIED FOR TREASON. BUSH IS ON THE SAME PLATTER. WHEN THEY'RE CONVICTED OF TREASON; THEY'RE EXECUTED. DONE.
  • texasaggie
    I wouldn't hold Obama responsible for this completely, but his record on other cases where he has infringed on public rights to the same extent as the Bush administration means that he can't be let off the hook either. Examples are the liability of the telecoms for spying that he was for before he was against, the use of state secrets to stop law suits against the government that he was against before he was for, and protection of the miscreants in the Bush administration.
  • Bushbamabad
    Of course you wouldn't dear. You worship the man. Some of us are into truth and reality instead of personality cults.

    Examples where Obama ABUSED his power to block FOIA requests.

    To protect Dick Cheney in a lawsuit about the outing of Valerie Plame. Using the lame dishonest Bush talking point, 'for reasons of national security' the Obama DOJ refused to release info about Cheney requested under the FOIA.
    On warantless wiretapping, he did it again to defend Cheney and deny a small Muslim charity their right to a day in court over being accused of terrorism.
    On his secret meetings with big coal executives at the White House (exactly like when Cheney met with big oil in secret) Obama has denied an FOIA request to make that available to the public……..national security doncha know!
    Obama also held secret meetings with health insurance companies at the White House to map out an acceptable game plan for health care last summer. Obama denied FOIA requests to release details of that meeting. He has since relented to pressure and released a partial sanitized summary of those secret meetings.
    The infamous missing emails (thousands) from the Bush administration were an example of Bush abusing FOIA. When Obama took power it was expected that he would have his DOJ reverse the decision to deny those emails to the public. Instead Obama doubled down and double crossed us by deciding to side with Bush and he refused to release them.
    On torture photos, there are almost too many instances to mention. But Obama has denied court requests, ACLU requests, CREW requests, and requests from torture victims in court dozens of times. Defending torture at GITMO, murder at GITMO, torture at Bagram, renditions in Italy. Defending torture seems to be the most common reason for Obama to deny these FOIA requests.

    Some people here (those very very very loyal to Obama) would have us all believe this is not really his fault or his doing. Those are all clear cut cases where Bush minions are not subverting the man of peace. Those are all clear cut cases of Obama acting like Bush. Did we vote for that? Obama made huge promises on open government during his campaign. His loyalists would rather you all forget about that. Here is the Obama spin on government secrecy. What a lying SOS his is!
  • H.P. Loathecraft
    Obama has only been in office for 14 months. You must give him more time...in prison.
  • libertate
    Don't blame me. I voted for Ron Paul.
  • kucinich2012
    And I wrote in Kucinich. O'Bummer's ACT was too fucking obvious to me.
  • Joe
    But Ron Paul is SCARY!!! Just vote for your favorite type of corrupt control freaks and forget about silly concepts like LIBERTY and the ENLIGHTENMENT.

    Ron Paul says that the citizen is the sovereign like those crazy old Teabaggers Jefferson and Madison. Yucky! I just want to eat Prozac and watch Karaoke on TeeVee.
  • carol h.
    This is no shocker. I stopped listening to the President a while back. And there will be no revolution. Other country's even those repressed ones, will get out and demonstrate. Our citizens will rarely ever get off their asses to do anything but gripe. Even in Iran they demonstrate. In Mexico they demonstrated one election for months.

    Not since Vietnam have there been sustained demonstrations. Just periodic ones and not ongoing. We have the government and the country we deserve. WE are sheep and unwilling to fight for anything. It's too much trouble. The President and the government know this. So do all the lunatic talking heads on the right. That's why they own the media and why they have all the money. And that is why we barely have a whisper of Democracy left.

    Let's just admit we have little left that people fought and died for. And let's stop referring to the Constitution that the government itself no longer recognizes as worth anything. Our President certainly does not follow it. Whatever his former profession, his belief was not strong enough to last through his first year.

    So boys and girls if you have a copy of the Constitution, frame it and hang it up. One day it will make a great curiosity piece.
  • ehswan
    Carol, my take away is that pres. Obama may mean well but has no real power.
  • Jesus Jones
    or...................don't give up and quit. Keep fighting for democracy and the rights that were stolen by Bush and Obama.
    Fight smart. Reject these two filthy parties, their corruption and their lies.
    The day and abused wife walks out on her husband is terrifying for her, but it is the only way to get free. Staying with the abusive husband who alternates beatings with his R hand and his D hand is not the way to fix this mess. Continually rationalizing the beatings with the D hand because they don't hurt quite as much as the R hand is pure insanity.

    Once enough Americans understand the truth, maybe there will be protests and serious effort to change things. But the disgusting lying media pukes will do their best not to cover such peace protests and efforts to end wars.
    A perfect example being the blackout last week of any news on the Dennis Kucinich sponsored vote in Congress to end our wars. The Obama friendly propaganda outlets who did their bit to keep our wars going by refusing to cover that vote are scum.

    First awareness, then protests.
  • trevinla
    oh Bushbama, once again your level of disappointment exceeds the boundaries of hope...

    and the only change we see is what fall in our cup when we beg for hope on the streets...

    Progressives must primary this corporatist or risk the loss of America to the Financial and Military Industrial Complexes. Who will win once the people have lost and only these two behemoths are left to do battle?
  • proudliberal1947
    The administration is doing as requested keep it quit, keep it buried and you will live.

    Like Emanuel isn't behind the coverup of his buddies. The Nazi and Racist KKK republiCANTS are going to turn and bite these disingenuous Bastards.
  • Dan
    Hey RawStory, since the AP is a suspect news organization, I ask for some qualification on this "news".
    The fiscal 2009 time frame includes 3 months of Bush and 9 months of Obama. How do these numbers break down for each administration for fiscal 09?

    Secondly, how many Bush moles are responsible for these FOIA denials?

    Let's dig a little deeper than the shiny surface.
  • tinfoilhatfordan
    That's some tinfoil hat shit right there.
  • donofcali
    If it were not true, Obama's loud mouth press secretary would be all over the news denying it. The administration's silence answers that question.
  • Jesus Jones
    Blaming Bush moles is not digging deeper.
    It is pathetic avoidance of reality.
    It is making excuses for Obama. It is denial.
    It is a red herring to take away from the obvious fact that Obama is abusing secrecy just as Bush did.
    Digging deeper would involve looking at what sort of FOIA requests were denied. If you do that you will find that most of it involves covering up TORTURE. Why don't YOU dig a little deeper into that are start dealing with reality.
    In fact, Obama is so driven to cover up torture, he is not only content to break the law to do it, he is willing to make new laws to help with that dark cause.
  • am
    Yup. Denial.
  • joblo
  • Sigh...
    Hey he hasn't been in office long enough. Try again after 8 years.
  • Big AL
    I am not shocked at all. This is the same old same old with the same shitty results.
  • joblo
    I can't wait to see how people will defend this. Where are those commentators, dr. matt, progressive in new york? maybe they're catching on.

    I'm sure it would go something like this...."Well, he has to increase the privacy of government to stop the teabaggers from knowing stuff about the government that would make them protest the government more."
    The citizens are all the enemy now, get past the name calling.
  • Jesus Jones
    Good question. They must know that their lies have no chance here.
  • Hologram5
    Thanks for your candor joblo, this is indeed what is going on. I too, wish for people to put aside their differences in the Fed Gov't matters and fight the common enemy, the violators of our consititution. It happens every day with every vote they take. They have taken too much and must now give back or be removed.
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