Bush Scandals List

331. Freedom of Information, well not so much

Despite a December 14, 2005 Executive Order requiring that “agencies shall process requests under the FOIA in an efficient and appropriate manner and achieve tangible, measurable improvements in FOIA processing,” the March 2008 Knight Open Government Survey of the National Security Archive found that the backlog in FOIA requests in the subsequent two years to the end of 2007 was only cut from 217,000 to 212,000. A July 2007 report by the group had found that the oldest unprocessed FOIA requests dated back 20 years to 1987. In the most recent study, Michael Chertoff’s Department of Homeland Security had set a goal of eliminating its backlog of 82,544 requests by the end of 2007 but instead saw the backlog increase to 83,661. Why am I not surprised? For its part, the Treasury Department had developed the strategy of sitting on FOIA requests then sending out letters demanding a response within 15 days. If no response was received the request was cancelled out. Researchers found that even when they responded on time, Treasury would send out a second letter playing the same game. For cases over 10 years in the works, the department claimed the materials had been transferred to the National Archives and that a new FOIA request would have to be submitted there. What this says is that the government which is supposed to be accessible and responsive to its citizens is not.

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