I recently discussed the implications of Associated Press story on access given to donors to the Clinton Foundation. However, what is not getting much attention is that the Obama Administration delayed these journalist investigators for THREE YEARS in seeking this information from the State Department. Three years and the AP had to go to court to secure what is clearly public information. The Obama Administration is not unique in its resistance to disclosures, even in what President Obama once pledged would be the “most transparent” government in history. FOIA has long been reduced to a farce by bureaucrats who force public interest, journalistic, and legal groups to go to court to secure information. The lack of outrage over what the AP was put through is ample proof that the government has won in harassing efforts to use FOIA. Only the most organized groups tend to persist in such efforts.
Hundreds of FOIA requests directed at the Clinton period at State appear to have been ignored. The Obama Administration had continued its litigate-first approach to FOIA. Indeed, it has asked for years of delay even when pulled into court.
Regardless of how you feel about the findings of the AP, the continued pattern of obstruction of FOIA should outrage all citizens. FOIA is a critical tool in forcing disclosures by the government. Elected and appointed officials alike hate the Act because it denies the government control over what voters are seeing and hearing. When we speak of transparency, FOIA is the eyeglass through which citizens can truly see their government. The fact that the public just shrugs at the thought of our government obstructing disclosures for three years is ample proof that the government has prevailed in its long effort to suppress the use of FOIA. Without it, citizens will again be left largely with what leaders choose to disclose in a system of managed information and knowledge.
The AP story should be not just disturbing over what it found but how long it took to find it.