For Immediate Release

CREW Critical of Administration's Response to FOIAs

WASHINGTON - 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.”

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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.

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