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Archive for Monday, January 17, 2011

House panel requests documents from Homeland Security

January 17, 2011

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— A House committee has asked the Homeland Security Department to provide documents about an agency policy that required political appointees to review many Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a letter obtained Sunday by The Associated Press.

The letter to Homeland Security was sent late Friday by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It represents an early move by House Republicans who have vowed to launch numerous probes of President Barack Obama’s administration, ranging from its implementation of the new health care law to rules curbing air pollution to spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Associated Press reported in July that for at least a year, Homeland Security had sidetracked hundreds of requests for federal records to top political advisers to the department’s secretary, Janet Napolitano. The political appointees wanted information about those requesting the materials, and in some cases the release of documents considered politically sensitive was delayed, according to numerous e-mails that were obtained by the AP.

The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to ensure the quick public release of requested government documents without political consideration. Obama has said his administration would emphasize openness in providing requested federal records.

According to Issa’s letter, Homeland Security’s chief privacy officer and FOIA official told committee staff in September that political appointees were simply made aware of “significant and potentially controversial requests.”

Mary Ellen Callahan told them that political appointees reviewed the agency’s FOIA response letters for grammatical and other errors and did not edit or delay their release, the letter states. She also told the committee that Homeland Security abandoned the practice in response to the AP’s article, according to Issa’s letter.

On Sunday, Oversight panel spokesman Frederick Hill said Issa sent the letter “because the committee has received documents that raise questions about the veracity of DHS officials” on the matter. He did not elaborate.

Issa asked the agency to provide the documents by Jan. 29.

Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said Sunday that his agency reduced its backlog of Freedom of Information requests last year by 40 percent, and has handled more requests for records than any other agency.

He said the department follows Obama administration policy and has not withheld or edited any records that agency lawyers considered appropriate to release.

Chandler also said Callahan did not tell Issa’s committee that the policy had been changed because of the AP’s story.

Last summer, officials said fewer than 500 requests were vetted by political officials. The department received about 103,000 requests for information in a recent 12-month period.

Comments

jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

This seems like exactly the kind of thing that right-wing folks would generally support - getting information about citizens who are asking for controversial information from the government.

What am I missing?

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scott3460 3 years, 3 months ago

A fishing we will go, a fishing we will go, high ho the merry oh, a fishing we will go......

Nice to see the right wingers promises about focusing on job creation kept, isn't it?

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Tom Shewmon 3 years, 3 months ago

Go get 'em Issa....you have a big job ahead of your sorting through the corrupt activities of this rogue regime over the past two years, and four years of a Pelosi/Reid congress.

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Joe Blackford II 3 years, 3 months ago

DHs FOIA? LOL

No KS newspaper has ever printed that a member of the panel which advised DHS on where to place the National Bio- & Agro-DEFENSE Facility is a KSU alum; Midwest Research Institute (KSU NISTAC office) VP; & enabler of the Anthrax Mailer (USMRIID employee under the Command of Col. David Franz).

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

Great. Republicans will fight the politicization of Homeland Security by attempting to politicize it to a flavor more to their liking. The more things change, the more they stay the same (or get even worse.)

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