FOIA requests show lack of transparency

Aug. 3, 2012 at 3:15 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The Obama administration still has a long way to go to meet its promises of increased transparency in government information, The Washington Post says.

A Post analysis of annual reports of government agencies indicates media organizations and individuals seeking information from 10 of 15 Cabinet-level departments under the Freedom of Information Act were less likely to receive it in 2011 than they were in 2010.

The administration vowed to increase transparency on Obama's first day in office -- Jan. 21, 2009 -- when he issued a presidential memorandum saying: "The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails."

Despite the memo, the Post analysis found the number of FOIA requests denied increased 10 percent last year and that by some measures the government is classifying more information as secret than ever.

Last month, the government said had it declassified less than 14 percent of 371 million pages of archived material the National Declassification Center was set up to review in December 2009. Some 41.8 million pages can now be viewed by the public and researchers, the Post said.

The 1967 FOIA law requires U.S. agencies to release information unless the government determines it can be withheld under one of nine exemptions.

"The reality is that governments generally have a tendency to secrecy, and after initially pledging a new era of transparency, the Obama administration has backtracked in critically import areas," Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the newspaper.

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