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Obama Administration Withholds FoIA Requests More Often Than Bush's 601

Posted by timothy
from the no-conspiracy-necessary-note dept.
bonch writes "Agencies under the Obama administration cite security provisions to withhold information more often than they did under the Bush administration. For example, the 'deliberative process' exemption of the Freedom of Information Act was used 70,779 times in 2009, up from the 47,395 of 2008. Amusingly, the Associated Press has been waiting three months for the government to deliver records on its own Open Government Directive."
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Obama Administration Withholds FoIA Requests More Often Than Bush's

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  • Re:Biased much? (Score:5, Informative)

    by longacre (1090157) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:39PM (#31527148) Homepage
    It's an Associated Press story. Here's the same story hosted on Google [google.com] if it makes you feel better, oh and Yahoo [yahoo.com], too, and Salon [salon.com], oh and the Philadelphia Inquirer [philly.com].
  • Re:Biased much? (Score:5, Informative)

    by lorenlal (164133) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:46PM (#31527280)

    FTA: Google edition:
    The agencies cited exemptions at least 466,872 times in budget year 2009, compared with 312,683 times the previous year, the review found. Over the same period, the number of information requests declined by about 11 percent, from 493,610 requests in fiscal 2008 to 444,924 in 2009. Agencies often cite more than one exemption when withholding part or all of the material sought in an open-records request.

    So, the number of requests declined 11% and the number of exemptions was much higher.

    Awesome.

  • RTFA! (Score:4, Informative)

    by pavon (30274) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:47PM (#31527310)

    The agencies cited exemptions at least 466,872 times in budget year 2009, compared with 312,683 times the previous year, the review found. Over the same period, the number of information requests declined by about 11 percent, from 493,610 requests in fiscal 2008 to 444,924 in 2009.

    Seriously, there is no need to speculate when the information was right there in front of you eyes.

  • Re:"Often"? (Score:3, Informative)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:48PM (#31527332)
    FTFA:

    The agencies cited exemptions at least 466,872 times in budget year 2009, compared with 312,683 times the previous year, the review found. Over the same period, the number of information requests declined by about 11 percent, from 493,610 requests in fiscal 2008 to 444,924 in 2009.

    So total requests went down and the number of denials went up.

  • Re:Needs more data (Score:5, Informative)

    by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot <{slashdot} {at} {pudge.net}> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:49PM (#31527350) Homepage Journal

    The original article does have some additional data, for example, in addition to the "deliverative process" exemption going up to 70,779 from 47,395, total exemptions also went up, to 466,872 from 312,683. Most damning, though, seems to be that total requests went DOWN, from 493,610 to 444,924, which means that they cited more exemptions than they actually received information requests (I wonder if that's ever happened before).

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:5, Informative)

    by beakerMeep (716990) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:59PM (#31527584)
    For whatever it's worth HuffPo posted the AP article.
  • Re:Biased much? (Score:2, Informative)

    by carluva (963158) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:59PM (#31527586)
    Did you even bother reading the whole comment? "Agencies often cite more than one exemption when withholding part or all of the material sought in an open-records request."
  • The Nine Exemptions (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:14PM (#31527890) Journal

    (From the EPA report, though all agencies use the same criteria)


    a. Exemption 1: Classified national defense and foreign relations information
    b. Exemption 2: Internal agency rules and practices
    c. Exemption 3: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law
    d. Exemption 4: Trade secrets and other confidential business information
    e. Exemption 5: Inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges
    f. Exemption 6: Information involving matters of personal privacy
    g. Exemption 7: Records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of those records (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual
    h. Exemption 8: Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions
    i. Exemption 9: Geological information on wells

    Some of those exemptions provide for a certain amount of creativity on the part of the denier.

  • by serialband (447336) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:22PM (#31528056)

    Well, there are 50 requests a month for his birth certificate from the State of Hawaii. That's private information that shouldn't be released to every Tom, Dick, Harry that asks for it. I wonder what else people ask for from the government that aren't legitimately acceptible requests.

    http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20100219/NEWS01/2190362/Hawaii-gets-persistent-requests-for-Obama-birth-certificate [honoluluadvertiser.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:22PM (#31528072)

    Go get more informative numbers from here [sunshineingovernment.org]. In 2008 56% of requests were granted. In 2009 61% of requests were granted. 2009 also worked to clear up the request backlog. It is a move in the right direction and as others have pointed out Bush was still in charge for part of FY 2009, so he might have skewed the numbers for the year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:22PM (#31528078)

    And which progressive and left-oriented site WOULD write about this, on the condition that it was true?

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:5, Informative)

    by beakerMeep (716990) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:26PM (#31528178)
    Indeed, it was in a different AP article [google.com]

    They denied FOIA requests in their entirety based on exemptions 20,005 times last fiscal year, compared with 21,057 times the previous year.

    Oops. So much for the damming evidence. Clearly though, I think we can all agree that we should all be pushing for less denials and more transparent government. If we sit around stirring the shitpot about who's guy is better, then we're doing ourselves no good at all. Well, except for generating a little ad revenue for slashdot and brietbart.

  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:47PM (#31528552) Homepage Journal
    This is what I was thinking. While I am sure many legitimate requests have been denied, we cannot ignore the fact that Hawaii is considering a law so that it can get on with the states business [google.com] and ignore the people who want to waste the states time because they do not know to use the internet [snopes.com].

    I have no doubt that are many people who just want to waste the nations tax money with frivolous requests. Up to January of this year I still had conservative persons that were sure there would be a January 26 trail in which Obama would be removed from office [snopes.com]. Of course anyone who would read knew this was not the case, and wondered why conservatives would support deserters. In any case, I can only speculate the number of frivolous requests generated by the belief that this trial was going to happen, and the anger when it did not.

    There are many other cases. Who knows how many requests are related to acorn and the fraudulence tapes collected by the criminals who attacked the duly representatives of this country. As I said, I would probably like to see more FOI requests accepted, but without a context it is difficult to say whether this is possible.

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:4, Informative)

    by blair1q (305137) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:51PM (#31528626) Journal

    The fact that other papers reprint AP stories verbatim doesn't make the AP an unbiased source.

    They've been caught several times in the past writing items at least as biased as anything on Fox News.

  • How this works (Score:5, Informative)

    by cmpalmer (234347) * on Thursday March 18, 2010 @05:00PM (#31528762) Homepage

    I've done some work with federal agencies and how they process FOIA requests:

    A request for information under the FOIA can be granted, partially denied, or denied. If the request is granted, the exact records requested are returned unedited. If the request is denied, one or more reasons (exceptions) must be stated from a list of allowed exemptions. If a request is partially denied, one or more exemptions must be stated and what the requester receives back will either be a subset of what was asked for or will be redacted to remove sensitive information. For example, PIA (personally identifiable information - like SSNs, birth dates, medical records, etc.) is an exemption and is grounds for a partial denial, but it usually only means that this information will be redacted from the requested records.

    So if you are looking at statistics (annual FOIA reports are required by law from every government entity and the reports themselves are either published or available via FOIA request themselves), you need to know the total number of new requests, the total number of requests held over from the previous fiscal year, the number of requests granted, the number partially denied, and the number totally denied. There are also individual statistics for denials and partial denials broken down by exemptions. There isn't anything on the annual report about how many exemptions were applied to individual requests - that would just have to be averaged out.

    The Obama administration did encourage more release of records under the FOIA and a relaxing of exemptions. The idea was to assume that any record could be released unless an exemption prevented it. The previous directive was to presume that any record could not released and then try to justify it. If they couldn't justify denying it, they would grudgingly release it. The other thing that has been encouraged is pre-emptive release. For any request that is granted (no exemptions) there is no reason to not put that record on the agency's public web site to avoid processing any future requests for it. Or if there are certain types of records that can be released and that get requested often, go ahead and publish them. Theoretically this will reduce the number of FOIA requests processed, but I think it's probably too early to see a difference based on this policy.

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @05:26PM (#31529202) Journal

    Sorry, have to disagree there. I say fairly controversial (read: anything remotely approaching a conservative viewpoint) things all the time but I make sure to do it either eloquently enough or humorously enough that I've been modded down so little I can count the negative point comments on one hand.

    Perhaps it's because conservatives viewpoints are less controversial on slashdot than you'd think at first glance?

    I have a fairly liberal viewpoint, it's not even extreme. And yet I get modded Troll quite often for writing comments that are by no means trollish.

    I think it's the liberal viewpoints that get hammered here on slashdot... really it's the extremes of both sides. But thinking on the topic over the past couple years has led me to one conclusion on the topic... people with axes to grind will spend their modpoints grinding that axe, many of them without consideration for the actual content of the post.

  • Re:Biased much? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kreigaffe (765218) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:02PM (#31529710)

    That's deceptive. You quoted one part of the article, which taken out of context makes it sound as if they refused less FOIA requests this year than last. That's untrue -- they refused less FOIA requests *in their entirety* this year than last, by a small amount. There's also about 10% less FOIA reqeusts this year than last (yet the ones refused in their entirety only fell ~5%). That article makes no mention of the total number of bits of information withheld. The one at breit does -- [quote]The agencies cited exemptions at least 466,872 times in budget year 2009, compared with 312,683 times the previous year ...[/quote].

    The conclusions are not the complete opposite, and even the 'administration-friendly' article you linked doesn't at any point insinuate that Obama's administration is any more open and transparent than Bush's.

  • by jonabbey (2498) * <jonabbey@ganymeta.org> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @06:13PM (#31529858) Homepage

    I don't have to read it. A government takeover of healthcare is wrong on its face.

    And one of the main reasons is that it requires laws thousands of pages long that nobody can possibly understand.

    As opposed to all of the other bills that go through Congress every year? Every interest group (commercial, union, or private) has a huge number of lobbyists and legislative specialists who pore over every bill that goes through congress.

    Believe me, they have read this bill.

    And government isn't "taking over" healthcare. They are not privatizing the health care market, they are setting up conditions to allow a real market in individual / small business insurance to exist.

    Mitt Romney did something similar with MassachusettsCare, and the Republicans proposed something similar in opposition to the Clinton plan back in 1994.

    Many in the Republican party act as if any Democratic initiative is the end of the republic and must be blocked, even if they do worse themselves when in power.

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. -- E. Hubbard

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