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Thursday, March 19, 2015

THE IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY White House to abandon FOIA regulations 9

Cheryl Chumley
'The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me'
The White House has decided to ditch an aspect of FOIA laws.
The White House is going to exempt itself from a federal regulation that subjects the Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act.
The Office of Administration is in charge of archiving emails.
Transparency officials, predictably perhaps, aren’t happy about the move, which comes curiously close to the growing controversy of Hillary Clinton’s storing of four years’ worth of secretary of state emails on her private server in her New York home.
The move also comes during Sunshine Week, the time of year when news organizations typically highlight the importance of open government.
“The irony of this being Sunshine Week is not lost on me,” said Anne Weismann of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, USA Today reported. “It is completely out of step with the president’s supposed commitment to transparency. That is a critical office, especially if you want to know, for example, how the White House is dealing with email.”
The White House, for its part, said the move is only aimed at keeping and cleaning FOIA regulations in line with court rulings that say the office is not legally subjected to the federal regulations.
But Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said the office has worked within the confines of FOIA for 30 years. So why exempt itself now?
“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,” he said, USA Today reported.
A federal judge in Washington ruled in 2009 that the office wasn’t subject to FOIA because it only performs “operational and administrative tasks in support of the president and his staff, and therefore, under our precedent, lacks substantial independent authority,” Newsmax reported.
Rick Blum, coordinator of the Sunshine in Government initiative for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, however, said the White House, once again, was being “tone deaf” to public perception.
“I think what we’ve all learned in the last few weeks is the person who creates a recod, whether it’s running a program or writing an email, is the one who gets to decide whether it’s an official record. And there ought to be another set of eyes on that,” he said, USA Today repoeted. “That’s the essential problem.”
The Federal Register is due to print the notice on Tuesday.