From VICE News The Obama administration has long called itself the most transparent administration in history. But newly released Department of Justice (DOJ) documents show that the White House has actually worked aggressively behind the scenes to scuttle congressional reforms designed to give the public better access to information possessed by the federal government.
The documents were obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports journalism in the public interest, which in turn shared them exclusively with VICE News. They were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — the same law Congress was attempting to reform. The group sued the DOJ last December after its FOIA requests went unanswered for more than a year.
The documents confirm longstanding suspicions about the administration's meddling, and lay bare for the first time how it worked to undermine FOIA reform bills that received overwhelming bipartisan support and were unanimously passed by both the House and Senate in 2014 — yet were never put up for a final vote.
Moreover, a separate set of documents obtained by VICE News in response to a nearly two-year-old FOIA request provides new insight into how the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also tried to disrupt Congress's FOIA reform efforts, which would have required those agencies to be far more transparent when responding to records requests.
The disclosures surface days before Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of open government, and a renewed effort by the House and Senate to improve the FOIA by enacting the very same reforms contained in the earlier House and Senate bills — the seventh attempt in at least 10 years by lawmakers to amend the transparency law. But the administration is again working to derail the legislation, according to congressional staffers.