NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Requests for Information Rise as Transparency Declines

March 15, 2013

As the government continues to grow in size, it becomes more difficult for the public to attain information about the various activities of the different branches of government. At the beginning of his presidency, President Obama claimed that his administration would be the most transparent ever. Despite increased requests for information, transparency has declined under Obama, says Mark Tapscott, executive editor of the Washington Examiner.

  • The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 and allows individuals to file requests for information from federal agencies.
  • According to the Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy, 644,000 FOIA requests were filed in 2011, the most of any year ever.
  • Editors and journalists file an estimated 6 percent of all FOIA requests; they are frequently met with curt responses or outright rejections for information and documents.

As one of the most frequently used federal laws, FOIA requests hinge on whether an exemption should be applied to documents on the grounds that the information is privileged, classified or otherwise not for public consumption. When FOIA requests cannot be resolved at the administrative level, they are typically taken to court.

  • One such case that will soon reach a U.S. district court centers on whether e-mails between two Environmental Protection Agency administrators who used fake names in their e-mails to avoid disclosure are covered by a FOIA request.
  • Researchers have discovered a 28 percent increase in the number of FOIA lawsuits from President Bush's last two years in office to the last two years of President Obama's first term.

Journalists and activists are dedicated to continue fighting for more transparency in government, a cause that both parties support. Transparency serves to reduce waste, fraud and corruption and to encourage the government to act ethically. The Obama administration has created serious transparency concerns among transparency watchdogs on the right and left for stonewalling and withholding information about the staggering amounts of money being spent with little to no accountability.

Source: Mark Tapscott, "Sunshine Week: FOIA Use Grows but Transparency Declines Despite Obama Promises," Washington Examiner, March 10, 2013.


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