In 2009, when President Obama ordered federal agencies to be more open and err on the side of releasing material to the public, this can’t be what anyone had in mind: thousands of pages of HealthCare.gov public business conducted via email by public officials yet somehow deemed so sensitive, so secret in nature, that we are not to see it.
These are just a few of the highly-redacted emails turned over to me so far in my Freedom of Information lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to respond lawfully to my 2013 request regarding HealthCare.gov. As you can see, even when the government is forced to belatedly produce public documents under the threat of court action, the end result is often useless.
Public disclosure has gotten to be so bad that the overused b(5) exemption to turning over material has been nicknamed the “withhold it because you want to” exemption.
Who is in charge of forcing agencies to properly comply with FOI law? The Department of Justice, which — unfortunately — is just as egregious with its FOI violations and defends the federal agencies in court for their failure to disclose. So the agency that could and should prosecute them is not about to do so. It’s a Catch 22.
How is it that the government can claim confidentiality for so many publicly-paid officials working on the public’s business using their work email accounts? Is this sort of secretive government what most taxpayers have in mind?
[The above is a news commentary]