The federal government is making it increasingly difficult, and prohibitively expensive, for journalists to get files that agencies want to keep secret, despite President Obama’s pledge of transparency.
That’s bad news for authors, editors, producers, writers, and publishers, as well as anyone else interested in democratic government. But it is great for ineffective, inefficient, and corrupt federal officials.
Federal agencies routinely flout the 1966 Freedom of Information Act, the so-called Open Government Act of 2007 that strengthens the 1966 law, and Obama’s 2009 executive order directing agencies to err on the side of disclosure, not secrecy, a host of journalists, public-interest advocates and lawyers tell Newsweek.
Specialists in Freedom of Information Act requests say there has been a general tightening up and an increase in denials for both records and fee waivers for journalists. They attribute this to Freedom of Information staff budget cuts and the absence of pushback from Congress.
And what of President Obama’s directive?
“All Obama’s executive order did was give agencies that were good about disclosure something to back them, while requiring nothing of the bad actors” who gin up reasons to withhold, says Bradley P. Moss, a Washington lawyer who specializes in access to government records.
Moss and others cite the Central Intelligence Agency as obstinate, releasing hardly any information and refusing to comply with laws requiring machine-readable documents, like spreadsheets. The CIA only releases copies of records on plain paper.