White House officials intervened in public records requests made to the Department of Energy, but federal investigators don’t know how many because required records weren’t kept, according to a new report from the DoE’s Office of Inspector General.
Federal investigators found the DoE sent four of the 55 public records requests they analyzed to the White House for review, but the corresponding case files documenting actions taken on those requests were “incomplete,” the inspector general said.
“Without full retention of case documentation, particularly documents showing changes to redactions or exemptions used, it was impossible to know with certainty what changes were made when the documents went outside the department for review,” the inspector general said. “Further, the lack of case documents potentially makes it much more difficult to defend FOIA appeals.”
A once-secret 2009 White House memo to all executive department and agency FOIA lawyers required them to consult with the White House counsel’s office on any document requests involving White House “equities.”
Government watchdog groups and transparency advocates asked the Obama administration a year ago to review the policy, but the review was never done.
Non-profit government watchdog Cause of Action sued a dozen federal agencies for allowing the White House involvement in their FOIA processes.
“This report is yet another piece of evidence that shows how the Obama administration, which was supposed to be the most transparent in history, is anything but,” said Cause of Action Executive Director Daniel Epstein.
“Information seekers, whether they’re individuals, members of the news media or public interest groups, should be extremely troubled by the fact that this White House has been interfering with how federal agencies comply with the Freedom of Information Act,” he said.
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