Archive for Thursday, July 22, 2010

Department used political filter for info requests

July 22, 2010


— For at least a year, the Homeland Security Department detoured hundreds of requests for federal records to senior political advisers for highly unusual scrutiny, probing for information about the requesters and delaying disclosures deemed too politically sensitive, according to nearly 1,000 pages of internal e-mails obtained by The Associated Press.

The department abandoned the practice after AP investigated. Inspectors from the department’s Office of Inspector General quietly conducted interviews last week to determine whether political advisers acted improperly.

The Freedom of Information Act, the main tool forcing the government to be more open, is designed to be insulated from political considerations.

Anyone who seeks information through the law is supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose confidential decision-making in certain areas.

But in July 2009, Homeland Security introduced a directive requiring a wide range of information to be vetted by political appointees for “awareness purposes,” no matter who requested it. The government on Wednesday estimated fewer than 500 requests underwent such political scrutiny; the Homeland Security Department received about 103,000 total requests for information last fiscal year.

Career employees were ordered to provide Secretary Janet Napolitano’s political staff with information about the people who asked for records — such as where they lived, whether they were private citizens or reporters — and about the organizations where they worked.

If a member of Congress sought such documents, employees were told to specify Democrat or Republican.

This, despite President Barack Obama’s statement that federal workers should “act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation” under FOIA, and Attorney General Eric Holder’s assertion: “Unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles have no place in the new era of open government.”

The special reviews at times delayed the release of information to Congress, watchdog groups and the news media for weeks beyond the usual wait, even though the directive specified the reviews should take no more than three days.

The foot-dragging reached a point that officials worried the department would get sued, one e-mail shows.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

This is obviously unacceptable, but as usual, Tom complains when the Obama Admin. does something (politicizing the government) that was standard operating procedure under Bush, and he'd like nothing more than get the Republicans back in office so they can resume more of the same.

hail2oldku 7 years, 10 months ago

"But in July 2009, Homeland Security introduced a directive requiring a wide range of information to be vetted by political appointees for “awareness purposes,” no matter who requested it."

Swing and a miss by bozo. I believe King George II and his puppet master were already out of office by this point in time.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

So does that mean you think that such policies were wrong under Bush?

Liberty275 7 years, 10 months ago

So does that mean you don't have evidence of such policies and want someone else to prove a negative for your convenience?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

The current regime continues its slide into total chaos.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

“…This policy stopped after DHS became aware that the AP was pursuing the story, but it’s appalling nonetheless. One career employee got reprimanded simply for referring a reporter to a public Coast Guard website for open-source information without first checking with the political politburo working for Napolitano. The policy demanded approval before release from the political appointees, who apparently often exercised a “pocket veto” on the requests by simply never responding. The materials that required such approval included anything relating to a White House policy priority, “controversial or sensitive” topics — and anything requested by lawmakers, journalists, activists, and watchdog groups. Who and what did that leave? I’d say the DHS website for people completely disinterested in it. It looks like anything of interest requested by people who had an interest generated a lot of political interest from Napolitano’s inner circle. The FOIA law is not an excuse to conduct investigations into active citizens expecting and deserving transparency in government. It is certainly not a dodge for political appointees to keep embarrassing data to themselves so as not to hurt their bosses. Even worse, Napolitano apparently kept Congress from getting information it needs to conduct oversight and provide a check and balance to DHS power based on the political affiliation of those asking for the data. That should be a firing offense, and it should include everyone in Napolitano’s star chamber as well as Napolitano herself. And if this Congress won’t defend its prerogatives, then we had better elect a Congress in the midterms who will…”

blindrabbit 7 years, 10 months ago

Probably an outgrowth and abuse of the Patriot Act; thank you, John Ashcroft

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