Archive for the ‘Freedom of Information Act’ Category

The EPA scandal takes a new turn with crucial EPA losing text messages missing

by John Lott on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

This is article 463 of 472 in the topic Government Corruption
Remember the scandal where the EPA was accused of trying to charge conservative groups fees while largely exempting liberal groups. The fees applied to Freedom of Information Act requests — allegedly, the EPA waived them for liberal groups far more often than it did for conservative ones.  The Obama administration has done what it always does.  Delay, delay, delay, and then say that the information has been destroyed and that all this is old news.  Of course, this isn’t the first time that the EPA has tried to hide information.  EPA administrator Lisa Jackson resigned over emails that she tried to hide under a pseudonym.  From Fox News:

The EPA is being accused of pulling “an IRS” for reportedly planning to inform the National Archives it has lost text messages being sought in an open-records request.

The Washington Times reported Wednesday that lawyers from the Department of Justice informed a federal court of the EPA’s plans to tell the National Archives it cannot produce the text messages because they have been deleted.

The open-records request in question came from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is seeking text messages from the devices of EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.
Christopher Horner, a senior fellow for the institute, told in a statement it is clear the EPA has not learned from the IRS’ mistakes. . . .

“Here we see EPA agreeing to the court to ‘do an IRS’, which is to say: notify the National Archivist of the loss of every one of Gina McCarthy’s thousands of text messages we have discovered she destroyed, just as the IRS finally agreed to notify (the National Archives) about the emails lost from (former IRS official) Lois Lerner’s destroyed hard drive,” he said. “The IRS’s insincere efforts at following through on Federal Records Act obligations drew the court’s ire – the same court now hearing the EPA case.  Taxpayers should rightly expect EPA to have learned the proper lesson from the IRS’s experience and hope for better.” . . .

the [EPA] argued that text messages are personal and therefore do not have to be stored as part of the agency’s official record as required by law. . . .

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Two years after Benghazi massacre Obama administration faces more lawsuits

by Jim Kouri on Friday, September 12th, 2014

This is article 457 of 472 in the topic Government Corruption

On Wednesday, the same day that denizens of America’s newsrooms breathlessly awaited the speech by the Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama, and the day before the second-anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi terrorist attack, a Beltway watchdog group reported that it had filed three additional Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against both the Department of State and the Defense Department.

The goal of filing these lawsuits is have a federal judge order the Obama administration to provide government records, emails and reports regarding what occurred immediately before, during, and after the deadly Islamist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans — including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens — mortally wounded.

Earlier this year Judicial Watch forced the Obama administration through a federal judge to release an email from Obama’s Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes. That email revealed that it was members of the White House staff who created what amounted to fraudulent talking points. Those talking points claimed that an Internet video blaspheming the Prophet Mohammad and the spontaneous demonstrations over that video were the reason for the Benghazi attack.

It was the revelation of that specific email, which the White House kept from members of Congress, that led to Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, to request and obtain House approval for a special Select Committee on Benghazi — under the leadership of former criminal prosecutor, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina — to probe all aspects of the Benghazi scandal.

Hillary Clinton’s extensive notes

During one of her televised interviews promoting yet another memoir, Obama’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned that she “took extensive notes during the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi. When she was asked if those notes would be given to the House’s Benghazi Select Committee, she cleverly responded, “They can read the book.” But Judicial Watch is now responding: “[Our] lawsuit could force Clinton to turn over all notes taken {before], during, and following the attack.”‘

“When I saw that interview, I was disgusted with Hillary [Clinton] and the entire Obama government. How easy to be flippant about an incident that killed four good men, one of whom she claimed was her friend. I feel sorry for Judicial Watch and anyone else seeking answers to Benghazi. They’re dealing with two of the most deceitful American politicians in recent history: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” said political strategist and attorney Mike Baker.

In a shocking revelation, Judicial Watch has stated that, so far, it has filed 40 FOIA requests, a Mandatory Declassification Review, and seven lawsuits against the Obama administration relating to the Benghazi terrorist attack.

“Once again, we are going to court to force the Obama administration to come clean about the events surrounding the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Hillary Clinton’s flippant refusal to make available the notes she took during the attack fits right in with the Obama administration’s pattern of obstruction. This administration, which promised to be the ‘most transparent in history’ has turned out to be one the most secretive.

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Exclusive: Inside the VA’s spin-and-stonewall machine

by Michelle Malkin on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

This is article 300 of 304 in the topic US Military

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.03.16 AMExclusive: Inside the VA’s spin-and-stonewall machine
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2014

The Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is very concerned.

No, the communications specialists in the agency are not concerned with veterans in need. They’re not concerned with citizens and public officials requesting public information. They’re not concerned with journalists seeking the truth.

What these entrenched government employees care most about, above all else, is the business of spin and stonewalling.

The VA mouthpieces are preoccupied with covering their ample bureaucratic backsides, withholding data, monitoring critics, fending off watchdogs and running constant interference for their corrupt, negligent agency.

In a string of internal email documents I obtained from last fall, several VA press staffers spent seven months dragging their feet on a Freedom of Information Act request filed in March 2013 by disabled vet and attorney Benjamin Krause. He and other vets wanted to know how exactly the VA’s communications budget was being spent on public relations campaigns, advertisements, online publications and contracts.

VA spokesman Mark Ballesteros warned his colleagues in an October 2013 email that he had read Krause’s veterans advocacy website, As I reported last week, Krause’s investigative site exposed and explained the VA’s red-flag system for dissatisfied veterans and also blew the whistle on Federal Protective Service officers harassing sick veterans protesting shoddy care in San Diego.

Ballesteros wrote that Krause’s website “appears to have a distinct anti-VA tone.” He advised the VA’s taxpayer-funded public affairs specialists: “We should proceed cautiously with this one.”

What exactly did that mean? Ultimately, the office supplied data in response to Krause’s request — but not before Ballesteros imposed what appears to be a selective, pre-FOIA release policy based on viewpoint discrimination. “Let’s ensure the material is socialized before we provide it to the organization,” Ballesteros told his colleagues.

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As Krause explained it to me, the VA “is using systems that allow it to track the influence of Congress and negative reporting” across traditional and social media. Color-coded weekly and monthly “media analysis briefs” cheer on the VA’s spin-control penetration on Twitter and Facebook. Bar charts, maps and ratings track congressional critics and activists.

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Last fall, the office kept paranoid tallies of pro and con statements on the ever-growing backlog of VA cases. Last fall’s media analysis reports obsessed over “mitigating” widespread criticism — from social media to “Fox and Friends” to “The Daily Show” — of VA bonuses and shoddy care.

It was in the course of probing those monitoring efforts that Krause discovered that “the VA Public Affairs thinks my website is ‘anti-VA’ instead of ‘pro-Veteran’ and is using viewpoint-centric censoring within its FOIA office,” he told me.

It certainly may not be the first time.

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, whose statements are tracked by the VA propaganda machine, also has run into the stone wall. As of last week, the VA was sitting on nearly 100 separate requests for information from the House panel. Sixty-eight of those requests have been pending for more than 60 days. There are three outstanding requests from 2012.

When I called attention to the internal VA documents involving Krause’s FOIA request, Miller told me in a statement:

“These emails are troubling, but they are not at all surprising.

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ATF Fast and Furious whistleblower files lawsuit against Justice Department

by Jim Kouri on Saturday, May 31st, 2014

This is article 443 of 472 in the topic Government Corruption

A former special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), with the help of a public-interest,legal watchdog group, on Wednesday filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Back in Sept. 24, 2012, ATF Special Agent John Dodson had filed FOIA applications requesting specific information that included all of the email communications between (either directed to or received from) the DOJ’s Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler and Fortune Magazine writer Katherine Eban, between the dates of January 20, 2011 and September 24, 2012.

Dodson’s case is expected to reveal just how closely the Obama administration and news organizations collude with one another to denigrate perceived enemies of President Barack Obama and his minions, noted former police detective and attorney Paula Fierstein.

“Whomever came up with the idea for Operation Fast and Furious had limited, if any, law enforcement experience. I believe this whole snafu was the brainchild of political hacks with an agenda,” said Fierstein.

Dodson’s FOIA request requested all of the emails — sent and received — by the DOJ’s Schmaler that contained the name “John Dodson,” “Dodson,” or that referenced any “ATF whistleblower” directly or implied between Jan. 20, 2011 and Sept. 24, 2012.

Dodson also requested all communications emanating from Department of Justice between Jan. 20, 2010 and Sept. 24, 2012 including emails, memos, letters, drafts, recordings and other documents, which referred to Special Agent John Dodson either by name or through implication or any reference to Dodson’s role as an ATF whistleblower.

Unfortunately DOJ officials ignored Dodson’s legal requests as stated in the FOIA law, and this failure to comply brought about Judicial Watch’s lawsuit which the group’s attorney filed on behalf of Dodson. The lawsuit asks that the District Court to order the DOJ to search for all of the records listed on the FOIA request applications. Judicial Watch, in its lawsuit on Dodson’s behalf, is seeking a federal judge’s order for the DOJ to “produce, by a certain date, any and all non-exempt records, along with indices of all records that DOJ continues to declare exempt”

Dodson is seeking these documents as a result of the alleged leaking of information about him by the now former DOJ Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler to Fortune Magazine’s writer Katherine Eban. Dodson accuses the DOJ’s Schmaler of providing his confidential personnel file to Eban for a Fortune Magazine article appearing in the June 2012 issue that defends the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The article was condemned by the House Oversight Committee and the committee publicly demanded a retraction.

The leaking of Dodson’s personal information is believed to have been “payback” for his being the first ATF agent to publicly accuse his superiors of authorizing the Fast and Furious gun-smuggling operation. In fact, the Justice Department’s own inspector general reported that senior staff members at the DOJ — including Tracy Schmaler — discussed how they mightdiscredit Dodson and soil his reputation as a professional lawman.

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Transparency update: Sebelius, other Obama appointees, using secret email addresses; Labor Dept. tried to charge A.P. $1 million for FOIA docs

by Doug Powers on Friday, December 13th, 2013

This is article 395 of 472 in the topic Government Corruption

2009: “For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city … the Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent … Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency”:

With that out of the way, let’s check in on how that’s going…

Former EPA chief Lisa Jackson, aka Richard Windsor, was apparently the rule and not the exception when it came to multiple and secret email accounts:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, including the secretary for Health and Human Services, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages, according to a review by The Associated Press.

The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: Most U.S. agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.
Ten agencies have not yet turned over lists of email addresses, including the Environmental Protection Agency; the Pentagon; and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Treasury, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Commerce and Agriculture. All have said they are working on a response to the AP.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz declined to comment.

Read the entire story here and stand in awe at the historic level of transparency. Keith Koffler has more on the Labor Department’s million dollar request here.

Using secret communication strategies recently got a reporter named on a DOJ warrant as a possible co-conspirator for espionage, but when the Most Transparent Administration in the History of the Universe™ does something similar it’s merely a spam avoidance technique?

Brace for Jay Carney to pin the blame for these secret email addresses on a couple of rogue IT guys in Cincinnati.

Update: Carney said this on Tuesday:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney argued Tuesday that the accounts aren’t secret and, in fact, prior administrations have followed the practice of appointees having second government accounts.

“This is a practice consistent with prior administrations of both parties,” Carney said.

The people who campaigned on promises of “historic and unprecedented levels of transparency” saying “hey, this is how everybody else did it” is a source of endless amusement.

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The Press Endures Obama’s Unrequited Love

by Alan Caruba on Sunday, October 20th, 2013

This is article 502 of 577 in the topic Media

Some years ago Bernard Goldberg wrote a book, “A Slobbering Love Affair With Obama”, about the way the press treated his 2008-9 campaign and election as President. The mainstream press continues to protect Obama, often rather blatantly. The curious thing about this is that it is not reciprocated. More and more, the press acts and sounds like an abused wife.

A case in point is the way the networks—ABC, NBC and CBS—covered the government shutdown. A new report from the Media Research Center analyzed the coverage, finding 41 stories that blamed the Republican Party and zero—none—that blamed the Democrats. There were 17 stories that blamed both sides. Recall, please, the shutdown continued because the President refused to negotiate and the Democrat-controlled Senate refused to vote on any bills sent over from the House.

A recent, glaring example of how some of today’s journalists have debased their profession was the decision by Paul Thornton, editor of The Los Angeles Times letter’s section, to openly refuse to publish any letters from skeptics about the global warming hoax that blames “climate change” on human activity, not the Sun, oceans, and other natural factors.

The cover of the September/October edition of The Quill, the membership magazine of the 8.000-member Society of Professional Journalists, featured an article by Kara Hackett, “There Goes the Sun”, referring to the metaphorical sunlight that is supposed to shine on government activities. The subtitle said, “President Obama has had successes and failures in changing the way Washington works. When it comes to his transparency promises, there’s not much to cheer. His 2008 campaign talked the talk, but nine months into his second term, where’s the walk?”

Journalists pride themselves for being on the cutting edge of events and trends, but they have been slow to realize or to admit that they have been instrumental in electing a pathological liar to the highest office in the land. “Now, after a turbulent start to Obama’s second term in office, his administration’s 2009 promise to be ‘the most open and transparent in history’ is another liability,” lamented Hackett.

Another liability…like an Obamacare from which Congress is exempt, the Benghazi attack last year, the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, the revelations about the National Security Agency, and the fact that the IRS no longer can be trusted with your private and personal information? And that’s the short list.

The Quill devoted six pages to Hackett’s article as she carefully detailed the many measures that seemed to offer a new era in openness. Many reporters chafed at difficulties they encountered during George W. Bush’s two terms, but the hostility to Bush43 was no secret. All administrations are reluctant to share information that might not make them look good. This is a description of the adversarial relationship that has existed since the days of George Washington.

The complaints are old and common, so Obama’s 2009 instruction to agencies and departments to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure” when responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiries was music to their ears.

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FBI, White House respond to CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson’s requests for Benghazi docs, photos

by Doug Powers on Saturday, August 17th, 2013

This is article 6 of 6 in the topic Freedom of Information Investigations

The FBI has responded to Sharyl Attkisson’s appeal of the bureau’s original denial of her request for Benghazi info under the Freedom of Information Act: “Mmm… don’t think so.”

Additionally, Attkisson said she’s been trying for coming up on a year to get the Most Transparent Administration in History™ to release photos taken at the White House the night of the Benghazi attack. According to Attkisson, the White House photo office said they could release the pictures, but they first need permission from the White House press office.

How’s that going?

Sharyl Attkisson         @SharylAttkisson

White House press office hasn’t returned a single call regarding this query (and I believe we started calling in late fall).

Self explanatory:

Sharyl Attkisson         @SharylAttkisson

All I asked for was info and photos similar to what WH released after successful bin Laden raid.

Attkisson’s entire rundown is here. Read it and marvel at the historic levels of transparency.

Alright, somebody please create a distraction to take the focus off the White House…



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More on the most open administration in history, Obama administration refuses to costs of global traveling

by John Lott on Monday, July 15th, 2013

This is article 355 of 472 in the topic Government Corruption

It seems that the Obama administration can’t even keep its transparency promises on even the small things.  From Bloomberg:

. . . Bloomberg News last year asked for the details of out-of-town trips for the heads of 57 major departments in fiscal 2011, a test of President Barack Obama’s pledge to run the most open government in history. As of July 12, about one-fifth of those surveyed hadn’t responded.

The State Department is one of five Cabinet offices that have yet to fully comply with requests under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the details and expenses of official travel more than a year after they were filed.

“These are exactly the kinds of records Cabinet offices should have at their fingertips,” said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a Washington-based open-information advocacy group. “You should not even have to ask for these records. They should be online already.”

The Justice Department, which is responsible for monitoring compliance with the open-government law, took more than one year to comply even though Attorney General Eric Holder has called swift responses to public records petitions an “essential component” of government transparency. Following repeated queries, the agency provided travel vouchers and then the costs of the trips last week. . . .

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A message from National Security Agency subject number 70900

by Douglas J. Hagmann on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

This is article 5 of 6 in the topic Freedom of Information Investigations

“If you let them do this to me and get away with it, then you’re giving them the eternal right to do the same damn thing to any one of you!” -Buford Pusser

foia capTo a lie, truth is toxic. To the purveyors of lies, truth-tellers are a poisonous threat. To the corrupt men and women of government, exposure of corruption is a serious threat that cannot be permitted to see the light of day. Those seeking to expose the lies, deceit and corruption by our elected officials or those holding the reins of power are the targets of marginalization, vilification, or worse. I write these words not only under my own name, but with contempt and disgust as an American citizen known to the National Security Agency as FOIA file number 70900. More precisely, it is the number assigned to my case by the NSA, stemming from my efforts to expose criminal government overreach against every American citizen. I will wear that number as I “walk tall” in my continuous quest for the truth.

Allow me to briefly take you back 40 years, as I believe you will see certain parallels that are perhaps more relevant today than they were then. And those parallels are applicable not just to my situation, but to everyone reading this.

The original film “Walking Tall” was a 1973 movie based on the real life of Buford Pusser, former sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee from 1964-1970. Anyone old enough to remember seeing the movie in theaters will likely recall the plot as well. At 6’6″ tall, Pusser was a one-time professional wrestler, although was convinced by his wife Pauline to leave the theater of professional wrestling to return home to McNairy County, Tennessee, a backwoods area located along the northern border of Mississippi to start a business with his father in the lumber industry.

Following his return home, Pusser and a friend visited a well known gambling house known as the Lucky Spot. It was unlucky for Pusser, however, when he became a front line loser after he discovered that the craps game was rigged. His protests resulted in a near fatal stab wound that required 200 stitches. Like any other victim of attempted murder, Pusser complained to the county sheriff, who promptly did nothing and allowed his attackers to remain free and unmolested of any criminal charges.

Undeterred by this lack of official justice, Pusser does his own investigation. He soon learns that not only were the games at the Lucky Spot rigged, the whole system in McNairy County was rigged, and the men in power were corrupt. But who do you complain to when the very men who are supposed to represent law and order are themselves corrupt? Is any of this sounding remotely familiar to today’s federal government?

And so his quest for justice began. Fashioning a club from a tree branch at his family’s lumber mill, Pusser pays a visit to the men who stabbed him and left him for dead. His actions promptly caused the sheriff to arrest Pusser, and a jury trial ensued. It is here that I hope readers will see the relevance to the larger issues of today.

During a jury trial, Pusser represented himself.

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Obama Scandals number #5 and #6 just since the presidential election

by John Lott on Thursday, June 6th, 2013

This is article 318 of 472 in the topic Government Corruption

As Glenn Reynolds described four of them this way: journalist-snooping scandal, IRS scandal, Benghazi, and the Sebelius Shakedown.  Of course, all this ignores Fast and Furious and some other earlier scandals.  I am just counting the scandals that have come to light since the presidential election.

Now there are two other new scandals:

1) The EPA

. . . The allegations concern the Environmental Protection Agency, which is being accused of trying to charge conservative groups fees while largely exempting liberal groups. The fees applied to Freedom of Information Act requests — allegedly, the EPA waived them for liberal groups far more often than it did for conservative ones. . . .
Research by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank, claims that the political bias is routine when it comes to deciding which groups are charged fees. Christopher Horner, senior fellow at CEI, said liberal groups have their fees for documents waived about 90 percent of the time, in contrast with conservative groups that it claims are denied fee waivers about 90 percent of the time.
“The idea is to throw hurdles in our way,” charged Horner, who says he decided to look into the fee structure after the EPA repeatedly turned down his group for waivers. . . .

This reminds one of the waivers that the Obama administration gave out for Obamacare.  If the Obama administration is giving conservatives a hard time with these fees, how hard of a time do you think that the administration has given conservatives with respect to their regulatory decisions?

2)  Secret email accounts for top Obama officials

There has been the recent secret emails by Lisa Jackson at the EPA to avoid reporting requirements (see here, here, and here).  But now the AP reports that this desire to skirt the law apparently covers many other many Obama appointments.

Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, including the Cabinet secretary for the Health and Human Services Department, are using secret government email accounts they say are necessary to prevent their inboxes from being overwhelmed with unwanted messages, according to a review by The Associated Press.
The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: Most U.S. agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees’ email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses. . . .
The practice is separate from officials who use personal, non-government email accounts for work, which generally is discouraged – but often happens anyway – due to laws requiring that most federal records be preserved.
The secret email accounts complicate an agency’s legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails in response to congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits or public records requests because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions.
“What happens when that person doesn’t work there anymore? He leaves and someone makes a request (to review emails) in two years,” said Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, an open government group.

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