House Reveals Corrupt Freedom of Information Process

Thursday, 07 Apr 2011 11:07 AM

By Chris Cox

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President Barack Obama promised voters “an unprecedented openness in government” by establishing a “system of transparency.” Like so many other things Obama has promised, the exact opposite is closer to the truth.

A newly released congressional report blows the lid off the rampant FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) abuse at the Department of Homeland Security, which is led by anti-Second Amendment Secretary Janet Napolitano. Indeed, the only thing “unprecedented” is the extent to which President Obama’s anti-gun political appointees will go to stonewall, cover up and hide the truth from Americans.

The new report comes courtesy of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and it concludes that DHS routinely, and as a matter of course, sought to politicize the FOIA process. Among the findings in the report:
  • The administration failed to properly comply with FOIA statutes.
  • Napolitano’s political staff attempted to frustrate the present congressional investigation through official non-cooperation, witness tampering, and the attempted theft of committee documents.
  • Napolitano’s political staff routinely encouraged FOIA specialists to deceive their supervisors in order to cover up information.
  • Napolitano corrupted the agency’s FOIA compliance procedures by requiring copies of all potentially troublesome FOIA requests to be sent to the secretary’s political staff for review. Responses to these requests were barred until they had approval from Napolitano’s political staff.
  • Aware that interference in FOIA compliance could create political fallout for the administration, DHS political staff ceased using official email to approve FOIA responses. Instead, anti-gun political staff contacted FOIA compliance officers via telephone to end any paper trails that could prove scandalous.
And now the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) — an agency within the Justice Department — is under the microscope of congressional investigators because two patriotic BATFE employees blew the whistle on questionable activity that may have led to the murder of two of their fellow federal agents.

According to these employees, the federal agency had been conducting a sting operation dubbed “Fast and Furious” in which they facilitated the transfer of thousands of firearms to violent drug lords in Mexico — and hid it all from the Mexican police and the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

One of the guns later turned up in connection with the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Keep in mind that our own American agents working in Mexico are banned by the Mexican government from carrying guns to protect themselves.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., have made several requests for information and documents related to “Fast and Furious” and its parent operation “Project Gunrunner.” Even though the Obama administration is required by law to respond to these requests, his employees are stonewalling and refusing to cooperate.

On March 16, Issa sent BATFE Director Ken Melson a letter requesting that documents related to Fast and Furious and Project Gunrunner be delivered to Congress no later than March 30 at 5:00 p.m. On March 31, Issa’s office confirmed that no documents had been delivered to his office per the congressman’s request. Grassley’s deadlines for document requests have also gone unmet, which is undoubtedly a complete surprise to those who believed Barack Obama’s transparency pledge.

Ironically, the president received a “transparency” award last week from the open government community in a private, undisclosed meeting at the White House with no record of who attended or what was discussed.

No, I’m not making this up. Obama chose to keep his transparency award, given to him for not keeping secrets, a secret and closed to all press.

The president’s new award, much like his Nobel Peace Prize, must have been awarded in anticipation of open government practices in his second term. Simple transparency and openness in the FOIA process would be a good start for this administration. However, at this point we’d settle for compliance with the law that clearly mandates these records be made available.

Chris W. Cox is the executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action and serves as the organization’s chief lobbyist.

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