The president who came to office claiming he would have the most open and transparent presidency in history is now denying or slowing Freedom of Information Act requests for documents at an unprecedented rate.
In 1966, Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act, a law giving the public and journalists access to government documents in an effort to bring more transparency to our government. It is this law that Obama’s federal government is increasingly circumventing.
Reporters from coast to coast are discovering that the federal government has slowed the release of documents to a crawl in a de facto denial of their release. As one reporter put it in The Washington Post, “They know that to delay is to deny… They know we have to move on to other stories.”
This isn’t anything sudden. In fact, since the very first day of the Obama presidency, FOIA requests began to slow to a trickle. The situation has gotten so bad that last year journalists banded together to urge that the president intervene and demanded that the government renew its commitment to fulfilling requests for documents.
The letter, presented to the president in 2014, started with criticism in no uncertain terms.
“You recently expressed concern that frustration in the country is breeding cynicism about democratic government,” the group of journalists wrote. “You need look no further than your own administration for a major source of that frustration politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. We call on you to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in.”
“The stifling of free expression is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring a new era of openness to federal government,” the letter continued.
Since last year, when this letter was sent to the president, it seems that nothing has changed.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that the Obama administration has “set the record for withholding government files” from those seeking public information.
“The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy,” the AP wrote on March 18.
Even liberal groups like the left-wing Democracy Now claims that Obama’s is the least transparent president in history.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.