Sunday, February 28, 2010

What transparency looks like to the White House

An unbelievable report today from the Heritage Foundation:
Things that are transparent: Saran Wrap, glass, water. Things that aren’t transparent: brick walls, mountains, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Or so it would seem, if you take a look at the CEQ’s response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in which the Chamber asked for the release of documents relating to agency records on global warming.

As the Chamber notes, “CEQ had identified 87 documents totaling 759 pages that were responsive to our request. HOWEVER, they could not release most of the documents because they ‘originated’ with another agency.”

So what did CEQ produce? An entirely blacked-out, redacted, Sharpie-markered e-mail, pictured above. (You can also take a look at a PDF of the document, courtesy of the Chamber.)

The Chamber says the response to their FOIA is astonishing, given President Barack Obama’s call for transparency beginning with day one in office:

On his very first full day in office, President Obama sent a memorandum to his executive agencies extolling the virtues of transparency and open government and directing them to facilitate public access to information. To further that directive, Obama issued a second memorandum encouraging agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure” when responding to public requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):

“The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. …In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public. All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.”
Get the full impact of this executive arrogance by looking at the redacted documents here

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