Report Details Obama Admin’s ‘Disappointing’ Transparency Record
President Barack Obama said he would run the most transparent administration in history. A pledge he has not lived up to according to a new report grading federal agencies on how well they handle Freedom of Information Act requests.
The Center for Effective Government looked at the FOIA processes for 15 federal agencies that handle 90 percent of the government’s records requests. The results were pretty abysmal, according to CEG.
“The results are once again disappointing,” CEG reported. “No agency achieved an exemplary total score (an overall A grade); only two agencies received Bs; three received C grades; eight received Ds; and two failed.”
The report, however, did indicate that overall agencies are moving in the right direction in terms of FOIA responses. Eight of 15 agencies improved their overall score this year while the other seven either did worse or the same as CEG’s 2014 report. Even so, the group says there’s still a lot agencies can improve on.
“The Freedom of Information Act represents the foundational transparency law for the federal government,” Katherine McFate, president of the Center for Effective Government, said in a statement. “Our report shows agencies are still struggling with the task.”
Who’s the federal government’s worst performer when it comes to FOIA requests? The State Department. This agency earned a failing grade, in part, for only processes 17 percent of records requests.
The Environmental Protection Agency did not fare much better, earning a “D” from CEG. The EPA has a big backlog of FOIA requests and high wait times for getting a response. CEG reported that “EPA and Department of Justice performed substantially worse at processing FOIA requests.”
But the agency’s low grade shouldn’t be surprising says Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Horner recently sued the EPA for “slow-walking” a FOIA request regarding emails from former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. The EPA told Horner there were 120,000 records pertaining to his request, but the agency said it could only process 100 records a month — meaning the FOIA request would take 100 years to finish.
So what was Horner after? He wanted records regarding the alias email account used by Jackson under the fake identity “Richard Windsor.” The EPA had given Horner about 3,000 emails in 2013, but has yet to fulfill the rest of his request.
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