Obama administration appointees in the Department of Homeland Security purposely stonewalled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by journalists and citizens, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press. This disclosure comes days before Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is to hold an oversight hearing on the agency’s handing of FOIAs — including the claim that information requests were vetted for political reasons.
In the emails, Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan — who was responsible for handing over FOIA requested documents to be scrutinized before release — complained about the laborious process, and went so far as to suggest that the department might be sued over the unreasonable delays.
From the AP:
“This level of attention is CRAZY,” Callahan wrote in December 2009 to her then-deputy, Catherine Papoi. Callahan said she hoped someone outside the Obama administration would discover details of the political reviews, possibly by asking for evidence of them under the Freedom of Information Act itself: “I really really want someone to FOIA this whole damn process,” Callahan wrote…
They [the emails] show that insiders described the unusual political vetting as “meddling,” “nuts” and “bananas!” Together with other confidential emails obtained by the AP for the first time, the files reflect deep unease about the reviews and included allegations that Napolitano’s senior political advisers might have hidden embarrassing or sensitive emails that journalists and watchdog groups had requested. The government said this didn’t happen.
On Thursday, Callahan is expected to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, during a hearing titled “Why Isn’t the Department of Homeland Security Meeting the President’s Standard on FOIA?”