The costs of Obama’s new “open government”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 9:43 am by

Addressing the United Nations back in 2010, President Obama pledged the creation of a “multi-agency effort [that] will work to declassify historically valuable classified records”—an effort the Justice Department and Central Intelligence Agency are edging away from.

Beginning in September of last year the CIA quietly entered a two-page document detailing the new regulations for Mandatory Declassification Review into the Federal Register. These regulations, which the CIA began enforcing three months later, allow the Agency to charge up to $72 per hour to search for documents requested. Holder Confirmation

The review in question is the public’s only channel to appeal declassification decisions outside the internal review of the overly-secretive CIA. Moving outside the CIA’s jurisdiction, a request made through MDR can appear before the Inter-agency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) to appeal an earlier decision. Unlike the CIA, which almost never willingly declassifies information, ISCAP has overruled more than 65 percent of agency decisions.

It therefore seems evident the CIA is attempting to price the public out of access, information, and transparency. What’s more surprising however, is Obama’s Justice Department is supporting them; in direct contradiction to Obama’s earlier pledge for openness.

In response to the CIA’s unjust price hike, a coalition of 36 organizations, including the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, challenged this policy in a letter to the Central Intelligence Agency. The Agency’s only response was a deferral to their lawyers at the Justice Department.

And while Attorney General, Eric Holder, in late 2009 issued a government-wide memorandum promising the “DOJ would no longer defend Freedom of Information Act cases that would not produce actual harm or were not prohibited by law. Under Holder, the DOJ has offered to defend every single FOIA case.

As long as the Justice Department continues to defend the duplicitous actions of the CIA, the public will remain in the dark, unable to quesiton the policies of our government as they hide behind the rhetoric of Obama’s new campaign for openness

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