AP IMPACT: A political filter for info requests
The Associated Press
Despite Obama Administration pledges to increase transparency and reduce bureaucracy around FOIA requests, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spent twelve months following an internal directive to route some FOIA requests through political appointees, who investigated requesters' backgrounds and delayed disclosures of politically sensitive material.
The Associated Press used FOIA to obtain the documents from DHS, which released 995 pages of email around the same time it announced it was discontinuing the political practices. DHS estimated that fewer than 500 FOIA requests were affected, and that no documents were unjustly withheld - but the agency acknowledged that the process increased delays and resulted in unusual levels of investigation of requesters.
Department of Homeland Security, DHS, Obama Administration, Janet Napolitano, political appointees, directive
DHS announced it was discontinuing the practice of routing FOIA requests through political appointees. The Associated Press subsequently obtained more email showing intra-agency discussion of problems with the policy (see "Emails: Insiders Worried Over Political 'Meddling'," 3/28/11, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/28/obama-foia-homeland-security-emails_n_841314.html). The DHS Chief Privacy Officer had expressed hope that someone would file a FOIA to reveal the process; another official described the political review process as "bananas!"
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