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Dan Gilmore / June 3, 2015

The Deck Is Stacked Against the Public’s Right to Know

This week, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform devoted two hearings to understand the state of the government’s compliance to the Freedom of Information Act. As originally intended, the act first passed in 1966 was designed to allow U.S. citizens to request government documents in order to understand what their government was doing. Think of any major Washington scandal and most likely you’ll see FOIA as the tool that uncovered that story. It was how Judicial Watch continues to gather information about the 2012 Benghazi attack and the IRS’s decision to target conservative nonprofits. The act, as wielded by journalist Jason “FIOA terrorist” Leopold, pried loose information about the inner workings of Guantanamo Bay and the CIA’s justification for using drones to kill U.S. citizens.

But it hasn’t been easy. “President Obama famously vowed to run the ‘most transparent’ Administration in history,” The Wall Street Journal opines. “Instead he has presided over one that has systematically abused a law intended to assist public disclosure and keep government accountable.” Only a few journalists have the legal backing and knowledge needed to consistently fight the government over FIOA requests. Sometimes, to even get an answer from the government, Judicial Watch’s President Tom Fitton told the committee the organization has to sue — which increases government waste. Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson told the committee that government officials need to be held responsible: “In my view, the only thing that could change things would be meaningful criminal penalties for violators.” More…

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