Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT), a federal watchdog, filed a transparency lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State to enforce their legal rights regarding a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Thursday for records involving John Kerry’s Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change (SECC).
The federal watchdog decided to file the lawsuit in an attempt to obtain records after the State Department estimated that it would not be able to complete the release of the FOIA request until after the next presidential election, on November 18, 2024.
PPT stated in a press release Thursday, after their request was “delayed,” that the American people are suffering from the skyrocketing price of gasoline, the rising cost of everyday goods from inflation, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
When PPT attempted to obtain records to shed light on these issues, they sought those records from the SECC, where Kerry is in charge of one of the administration’s top priorities, climate change. Thus, the work he performs has the ability to impact the pocketbook of each American, rising inflation, the price of oil, and international crises.
“Looking at the State Department’s schedule for providing records, it would be hard to convince the American public that political considerations were not factored into their reaction to this request,” stated PPT’s Director, Michael Chamberlain.
The watchdog’s press release indicated that the State Department’s replies to the FOIA request and the PPT’s follow-up were inconsistent with “both the spirit and the letter of Attorney General (AG) Merrick Garland’s memo last week to heads of departments and agencies regarding FOIA.”
Quoting from Garland’s memo, which in turn was quoting the Supreme Court, PPT wrote that FOIA is “‘a vital tool for ensuring transparency, accessibility, and accountability in government’ whose ‘basic purpose . . . is to ensure an informed citizenry,’ which is ‘vital to the functioning of a democratic society [and] needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.'”
The watchdog indicated that to Kerry’s SECC, however, this FOIA request “apparently” does not matter until after the next election.
Citing Garland’s memo, the watchdog’s lawsuit noted:
As the Garland Memo makes clear, “Timely disclosure of records is also essential to the core purpose of FOIA.” An agency purporting to give itself more than three years to complete a FOIA request is anything but timely. Particularly where, as here, the Department’s proposed completion date conveniently allows it to hide information about high level political appointees working on one of the Administration’s highest priorities until just after the next Presidential election. This can hardly be said to promote “transparency” or “accountability.”
The filing also pointed out that the FOIA has already been pending for over 150 days, exceeding the “statutory period for federal agencies to make a determination with respect to a FOIA request.”
“Delaying the release of records about one of the most high-profile, high-priority offices, run by one of the most prominent political figures, until after a relevant election is an affront to not only the AG’s guidance but to basic principles of public service,” Chamberlain continued in the PPT press release.
“If anyone were wondering why trust in the government is so low, this case is Exhibit A,” Chamberlain affirmed.
The case is Protect the Public’s Trust v. U.S. Department of State, No. 1:22-cv-00799 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Jacob Bliss is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter.