White House Hit With Suit Alleging Systematic Obstruction Of Transparency

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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A government watchdog launched a lawsuit Monday targeting 11 federal agencies, the Office of the White House Counsel and White House Counsel Neil Eggleston.

Cause of Action Institute filed the suit “to end the Obama administration’s practice of delaying government responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that the administration considers politically sensitive or embarrassing,” the group wrote in a statement.

“The Obama administration, however, has interfered in the FOIA process in ways that violate the statute and hinder its purpose of federal transparency,” the statement said. (RELATED: The ‘Most Transparent Administration In History’ Lobbied Heavily Against FOIA Reform)

President Barack Obama said he would lead the “most transparent administration” in history, but “his actions have not matched such rhetoric,” Cause of Action Institute wrote. (RELATED: New Data Shows Obama Least Transparent Prez Ever)

A 2009 memo ordered all federal agencies to consult with the White House before producing documents that involve “White House equities.” Consequently, the White House requires consultations whenever documents are politically sensitive or potentially embarrassing.

“The results of these consultations is that agency FOIA productions are delayed precisely when prompt disclosure is most important,” Cause of Action Institute wrote. “The consultation process can take months or even years.”

“[D]elaying FOIA productions based on potential political consequences violates both the letter and the spirit of FOIA,” the watchdog continued.

The lawsuit includes the departments of Defense, the Interior, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury and the Environmental Protection Agency. (RELATED: Too Many Information Request Bog Down Agencies, Officials Say)

FOIA has been repeatedly obstructed in a variety of other ways under the Obama administration, and even lead to a bizarre congressional hearing where lawmakers heard critical testimony from affected journalists.

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