Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) had his first shot at Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday, and he based his first question on a report on the handling of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests authored the ex-Justice Department “whistleblower” behind the controversial New Black Panther Party case. But Holder said he looked into the allegations made by former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams and found there was “no ideological component to how we answer the requests.”
Wolf’s first question at a subcommittee hearing — ahead of his questions on the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and even his questions on terrorism — was based on a post Adams wrote for Pajamas Media. The conservative lawyer, who was hired into the Civil Rights Division during the Bush Administration, made the serious allegation in the February article that Holder’s Justice Department had “politicized compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.”
“According to documents I have obtained, FOIA requests from liberals or politically connected civil rights groups are often given same day turn-around by the DOJ,” Adams wrote. “But requests from conservatives or Republicans face long delays, if they are fulfilled at all.”
Holder blew off the criticism, stating that more complex FOIA requests “take more time, requests that are relatively simple in nature can be answered faster.”
“I’m not sure what research Mr. Adams has done. I’ve looked into the issues that were in this, I guess, blog or article that he wrote. To the best I can determine, there is no ideological component with regard to the response times that the Justice Department makes to these requests,” Holder said. “But I can assure you that there is no ideological component to how we answer the requests.”
Adams, who wrote that Pajamas Media sued the Justice Department in U.S. District Court, isn’t the only one criticizing the Justice Department for the way it handles FOIA requests — it has also come under criticism for “looming secrecy problems” that good government groups want the Obama administration to address.
Late Update: Media Matters has the video.