Friday, April 29, 2016

DOJ's Spotlighting success in FOIA pours salt in open wound

Posted by CotoBlogzz

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA -  For Sunshine Week 2016, DOJ celebrated the 50 year history of the FOIA.  During the Department's Sunshine Week event, Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery remarked,

Over the last 50 years, the public demand for information through the FOIA has grown considerably. And so have agencies’ abilities to meet that demand.
According to today's DOJ'a announcement:  today OIP highlights a number of FOIA success stories from 2015-2016 for the 15 cabinet agencies. As in prior years, these success stories come from agencies 2016 Chief FOIA Officer Reports, which detail all the efforts taken place throughout the year to implement the President's and the Department of Justice's FOIA policy directives.  

This is how easy it is to access information under current FOIA

For the last seven years, the Chief FOIA Officer Reports have played an important role in allowing agencies to go beyond the statistics of their Annual FOIA Reports to more fully illustrate the various concrete steps they have taken to implement the presumption of openness and improve their FOIA administration. The reports give agencies the ability to provide depth and context to the varied steps that they are taking to increase efficiency and improve performance in the FOIA process. They also provide a vehicle for agencies to describe the innovative ways information is being released to the public proactively.
Some of the successes from the selection highlighted today include:
  • The Department of Homeland Security launched the first ever eFOIA mobile application and made remarkable achievements in backlog reduction, eliminating over 65% of backlogged requests.
  • In response to public interest, the Food and Drug Administration processed and posted all records concerning a listeria outbreak related to ice cream. By proactively posting the records, the public and the media were able to readily obtain information about the outbreak and the contaminated products involved.
  • The Department of Energy continues its efforts to open up data to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and innovation, providing a central online location for information about data released by the agency.
  • Despite a marked increase in incoming requests, the Department of the Interior reduced its overall backlog of requests and closed its ten oldest requests. 

I am impressed with the FOIA accomplishments, and if I did not know any better, I would conclude that based on today's DOJ's announcement, , the United States should be ranked at the top of the list.  Unfortunately, instead of spotlighting FOIA's successes, the announcement spotlights the DOJ's and the administration's cognitive dissonance:  The 2016 Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) World Press Freedom Index ranks the United States at 41 out of 180 nations and it concludes for example, that " there is still room for improvement in the country of the First Amendment."
Further, the RSF report also finds that: The main cause for concern for RSF continues to be the current administration’s obsessive control of information, which manifests itself through the war on whistleblowers and journalists’ sources, as well as the lack of government transparency, which reporters have continually criticized. The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA operative, was convicted solely on the basis of metadata in January 2015 of disclosing classified information to James Risen and is now serving a 3.5 year prison sentence.


Is the DOJ's spotlight on FOIA successes consistent with the 2016 Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, or is this just another example of parallel universes?


There's no sunshine till she's gone - White House War on Press

2016 Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) World Press Freedom Index: There is still room for improvement in the country of the First Amendment.

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA -  Last month, the US Justice Department (DOJ) welcomed individuals from around the government and members of the public to the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy building to kickoff Sunshine Week 2016, and to summarize our view of the event, we published a piece titled:   The CotoBuzz Journal : DOJ's Cognitive Dissonant 2016 Sunshine Week Celebration

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