A nonpartisan watchdog group has filed suit against eleven federal agencies and the White House Office of Counsel over the Obama administration's alleged practice of obstructing Freedom of Information Act requests.
The suit, filed in the District Court for Washington, D.C. on Monday by the nonpartisan group Cause of Action, alleges that the executive branch has systematically obstructed FOIA requests since a 2009 memo issued by then-White House Counsel Gregory Craig. The memo, issued to all federal agencies, "reminded" them to consult with the counsel's office on all document requests involving White House "equities."
Since that time, Cause of Action stated, record requests involving topics of interest to the White House have been improperly sent to the counsel's office for review, even when they have not involved "FOIA exemptions and privileges."
The group argues that the White House has used the maneuver to prevent agencies from responding to requests in a timely manner, stating that it has made a number of FOIA requests for production of documents "to several federal agencies that have been or will continue to be delayed due to the 'White House equities' review practice."
One example cited by the group is an August 2013 request submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency turned the request over to the White House six months later, where it has been retained for more than two years without any word as to its status.