An analysis by the Associated Press reveals that when it comes to especially newsworthy information, the Obama administration denies more Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests than it grants and often takes longer to answer record requests, whatever the final determination.
Government files were censored, or completely withheld “more than ever,” according to the AP. That counts as another Obama promise broken given previous statements from the White House.
The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that half way through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.
On a number of counts, the administration’s transparency were the worst last year since Obama first took office.
In a year of intense public interest over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times — a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama’s first year, when it cited that reason 3,658 times. The Defense Department, including the NSA, and the CIA accounted for nearly all those. The Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency cited national security six times, the Environmental Protection Agency did twice and the National Park Service once.
“I’m concerned the growing trend toward relying upon FOIA exemptions to withhold large swaths of government information is hindering the public’s right to know,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It becomes too much of a temptation. If you screw up in government, just mark it top secret.”
The AP also reports that so-called citizen journalists helped to contribute to a high number of records requests, requests which the Obama administration seems especially prone to drag out, stonewall, or outright deny more than ever.