Tags: Barack Obama | Hillary Clinton | white house | office | archives | emails | transparency

WH Removes Office That Archives Emails From FOI Act Scrutiny

By    |   Monday, 16 Mar 2015 06:33 PM

The White House office whose duties include archiving emails is reportedly no longer subject to the Freedom of Information Act — a move that's angered transparency advocates, especially during the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s use of private email system while serving as secretary of state.

USA Today reports the White House is removing a federal regulation subjecting the Office of Administration to the transparency law, officially returning to a policy in place since 2009.

In a notice to appear in Tuesday's Federal register the White House argues the move is consistent with court rulings.

Ironically, the change comes on Freedom of Information Day and during Sunshine Week, when media and watchdog groups spotlight issues of transparency.

"You have a president who comes in and says, I'm committed to transparency and agencies should make discretionary disclosures whenever possible, but he's not applying that to his own White House," Anne Weismann of the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told USA Today.

Although other offices within the White House have always been exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, the Office of Administration has complied with requests for the past three decades, the newspaper notes.

"This is an office that operated under the FOIA for 30 years, and when it became politically inconvenient, they decided they weren't subject to the Freedom of Information Act any more," Tom Fitton of the conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, told USA Today.

In 2009, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled the office wasn't subject to the transparency law "because it performs only operational and administrative tasks in support of the president and his staff and therefore, under our precedent, lacks substantial independent authority." The White House hasn't explained why it waited so long to acknowledge the court ruling in its regulations.

"It's a little tone deaf to do this on Sunshine Week, even if it's an administrative housecleaning," Rick Blum, coordinator of the Sunshine in Government initiative for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told the newspaper.

"I think what we've all learned in the last few weeks is the person who creates a record — whether it's running a program or writing an e-mail — is the one who gets to decide whether it's an official record. And there ought to be another set of eyes on that. That's the essential problem."

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The White House office whose duties include archiving emails is reportedly no longer subject to the Freedom of Information Act — a move that's angered transparency advocates, especially during the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s use of private email system while serving as secretary of state.
white house, office, archives, emails, transparency, freedom, information, act, hillary clinton, secretary, state
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2015-33-16
Monday, 16 Mar 2015 06:33 PM
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