Off the Record

Greta: When Freedom of Information means 'Cover Your Ass'

'Off the Record', 3/7/14: President Obama and past presidents and politicians say all the nice things about transparency and the Freedom of Information Act. The truth is they use it to hide information: 'FOIA' to them means 'CYA'


By Greta Van Susteren

OK, let's all go "Off the Record" for just a minute. On January 21, 2009, the day after President Obama took the oath of office for his first term, he signed a memorandum with specific emphasis on enforcement of the Freedom Of Information Act. The president directed the executive branch to act cooperatively and in the spirit of cooperation when asking for information. The president's order emphasized the importance of transparency, making the government open to its citizens. That was five years ago.

And, well, apparently it's been downhill since. This is a fact. The government does not respond promptly. And completely to FOIA requests. And it does not comply swiftly to a subpoena. Instead, the government dodges the law by dragging its feet, making up excuses and so, consider this: the IRS won't surrender all of Lois Lerner's emails. They were subpoenaed last year by Chairman Issa of the Government Oversight Committee. Some emails were voluntarily surrendered today to the Ways and Means Committee. But note - and this is very important - not all the documents.

Of course, you just heard the State Department dragged its feet submitting to a FOIA request last summer. It took the media hammering yesterday for the state department to finally comply today.

Well, that's simply not cooperation. And when the government finally gets around to complying to these lawful requests, guess what? Often the really important stuff is blacked out so it can't be read. Now, that's very convenient and sometimes deliberately deceptive way to hide things from the American people.

So, it's time to be honest. Instead of the acronym "FOIA," let's change it to "CYA." That's my "Off the Record" comment tonight.