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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CREW Critical of Administration's Response to FOIAs
WASHINGTON - March 16 - In honor of Sunshine Week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released today its assessment of the Obama administration’s response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. CREW praised President Obama for making clear that he values transparency and accountability, and for reversing the Bush administration’s policies favoring government secrecy in favor of promises of unparalleled openness in government. White House officials have given good government groups, including CREW, a seat at the table and have solicited a broad range of opinions and feedback on their openness initiatives. Some agencies have become more receptive to engaging with FOIA requesters, resulting in greater and swifter disclosures.
Although there has been some progress, secrecy still dominates agency culture. Examples include:
- The Department of Defense continues to impose bureaucratic hurdles to disclosure such as improperly denying fee waivers.
- The Department of Justice maintained the Bush administration’s position, refusing to disclose the notes of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s interview with the FBI stemming from the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity.
- Following the highly controversial decision to provide Wall Street firms with the extremely scarce H1N1 vaccine, the Department of Health and Human Services refused to provide CREW with documents that would explain this decision, even claiming the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services had no records on the subject.
- In a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for documents regarding the VA’s policy of diagnosing adjustment disorder rather than post traumatic stress disorder as a cost-saving measure, the VA failed to turn over a copy of the original email that had been leaked to CREW exposing that policy. Astonishingly, the VA had destroyed all backup tapes containing that email.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “While the Obama administration has made some progress in increasing government transparency, CREW’s experience indicates there is still a long way to go.” Sloan continued, “Sunshine Week is the perfect time for the administration to reassess and reinvigorate agencies’ efforts towards making the government more accountable to the American people.”