The State Department deserved to be rebuked by a federal judge last week for refusing to release Hillary Clinton’s emails. But, as the Wall Street Journal editorial board points out, it was “merely following the rules laid down by the least transparent Administration in history.” WSJ,
Most Administrations play games with FOIA, but the Obama White House has turned stonewalling into an art form. A favorite tactic is to ignore or string out the requests. That’s what State did in Mrs. Clinton’s case, claiming it simply couldn’t get around to issuing her emails until next year. A court order was needed to get it to move, and that’s typical across the Administration.
FOIA request backlogs have more than doubled since President Obama took office. The feds received 714,231 FOIA requests in fiscal 2014, and nearly 160,000 weren’t processed within the legal time limit, up 67% from fiscal 2013.
Another trick is to impose sky-high fees. Under FOIA, certain groups (media, educational) are exempt from most fees, so agencies have taken to denying them their legitimate categorizations. The Department of Homeland Security is currently in court for having denied a research institute at Syracuse University educational status, which could cost the institute more than $100,000 for a FOIA request.
Most disturbing are examples of destroying or hiding information. FOIA requests are supposed to be handled by specific FOIA staff as a guard against political types hiding information. Yet the Journal reported in May that Mrs. Clinton’s longtime aide, Cheryl Mills, interfered with FOIA staff at State, at times blocking the release of politically sensitive documents.