Tag: Freedom of Information Act

The Purge

For the last few months, Stephen Bainbridge has been talking about “the Purge”, what he perceives as an increased effort to rid campuses of ideas and people that the Left does not approve of. It has manifested in universities cutting funding for conservative groups and preventing them from hosting speakers that some students don’t approve of (lest anyone be “offended”). It has manifested in Rutgers withdrawing an invitation to Condi Rice to speak at their commencement (a precedent followed by other schools). It has manifested in Brandeis withdrawing a speaking invitation to Ayan Hirsi Ali. It has manifested in Charles Murray’s speech at Azusa Pacific being postponed indefinitely.

In isolation, these things wouldn’t be a concern. No one has a right to speak, after all (although I doubt the people who objected to Rutgers hosting “war criminal” Condi Rice would object to hosting a member of the Administration that has droned American citizens to death without trial). But we’re now seeing the second stage: legal harassment of people who may harbor politically incorrect views:

Douglas Laycock, School of Law faculty member and husband of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, is one of the country’s leading experts on religious liberty, and is well-known for a legal stance that often puts him on opposite sides of polarizing political issues: He supports individual religious rights, but also a total separation of church and state, and he’s argued several Supreme Court cases from that position, defending conservative Lutherans and Santería sect members alike.

Some of his recent writings have been heavily cited by members of the religious right, and now he’s facing the ire of activists on the other end of the political spectrum.

“His work, whether he understands it or realizes it or not, is being used by folks who want to institute discrimination into law,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of Berkeley, California-based LGBT activist group GetEQUAL.

Through the activist group Virginia Student Power Network, GetEQUAL found two UVA students willing to take up the cause of calling out Laycock: rising fourth-year Greg Lewis and now-alum Stephanie Montenegro. Last week, the pair sent an open letter to Laycock asking him to consider the “real-world consequences that [his] work is having.” They also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking e-mails between Laycock and various right-wing and religious liberty groups.

They say they just want to “start a dialogue”. Many of you will recognize that language. “Starting a dialogue” frequently translates out of Leftese into English as “you will shut up while I berate you.” Bainbridge calls them out:

Bullshit. You don’t start a dialogue with FOIA requests. This is a blatant effort at deterring public participation by anyone who does not hew 100% to the most radical version of the gay rights movement.

FOIA requests should sound familiar. That was the tactic that, when used in an attempt to fish around in Michael Mann’s records, was denounced by the Left as an Orwellian attack on academic freedom. And it was. But now that it is being applied to someone who isn’t even conservative, but is insufficiently liberal, it’s OK again. And that’s not the first time they’ve flipped on this. When Greenpeace used FOIA to go after climate skeptical Patrick Michaels, the academic-freedom-loving Left cheered them on. They then used the information Greenpeace dredged up to attack Michaels. (To be fair, as Walter Olson notes, some conservative groups are also using FOIA to attack profs they don’t like).

Look, you either believe in academic freedom or you don’t. You either believe in the free exchange of ideas or you don’t. And a significant and vocal part of the Left has made it clear, sometimes very explicitly, that they only believe in academic freedom for ideas they approve of.

I don’t think you win arguments by silencing dissenters. Argue … shout … scream … protest … sure. Make your case; make it forcefully; mock your opponents. That’s fighting bad speech with more free speech. But the tenor of these attacks is edging closer and closer to censorship, closer and closer to ridding the academy of ideas that are considered dangerous or subversive (at least by a small group of like-minded people).

The justification is usually given as protecting people from being offended. But no one has a right to not be offended. Hell, it’s good to be offended sometimes. It can motivate you. The most linked blog post I ever wrote was a debunking of Mother Jones’ claim that mass shooting were on the rise. I wrote it because I was infuriated by their abuse of statistics.

Moreover college is where you should be exposed to a broad array of ideas, some of which may offend you. Being taken out of your comfort zone is how you learn. Sometimes, you learn that you were wrong (of course, nothing offends people more than being wrong). Sometimes you learn that you were right. I always despised communism. It wasn’t until I was exposed to communist writings in college that if found it offended me with its awful understanding of economics and explicit embrace of totalitarianism.

Another justification given is that we don’t want to contaminate impressionable young minds with bad ideas. More garbage. The best time to encounter bad ideas is when you’re in college, when your entire life revolves around ingesting and either accepting or rejecting ideas.

You don’t immunize people from “bad” ideas by hiding them away. You argue, you debate, you explain why those ideas are wrong, you put forward better ideas. If you think Douglas Laycock is wrong on religious freedom, file your own amicus briefs. But don’t abuse the FOIA laws to try to harass and intimidate him. That’s not “starting a dialogue”. That just thuggery.

The Least Transparent Administration Ever

Go on, tell me you’re surprised. I dares ya. I double dog dares ya.

The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.

The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that half way through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.

In category after category — except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees — the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

They now censor or deny more than half of all requests. Now, to be fair, the record number of denials and censored records is a result of a record number of requests. However, the reason we have a record number of requests is because of the immense secrecy with which this Administration drones American citizens, drones other people, spies on us and screws up on foreign policy.

I appreciate that national security concerns sometimes trump our right to know. But this Administration has a track record of claiming national security to cover up idiocy, such as when they tried to hide that they’d put a wheelchair-bound academic on a terror watch list due to a typo. We have at least two rogue agencies in Washington: the CIA was spying on Congress and the NSA chief flat-out lied to them. No government ever has the right to say, “Just trust us.” That goes double for an Administration that has repeatedly demonstrated themselves to be unworthy of our trust.

At some point, I think we may want to move the FOIA process outside of the executive or apply a more stringent and straight-forward judicial review. National Security can not be a duck blind with which to cover up incompetence, malfeasance and constitutional abuses. There is a clear conflict of interest here.

Ethical & transparent my ass…

As I pointed out when these scumbags where pretending they would be better than their predecessors, buyer beware. Never trust the leftard politicians to be either ethical or transparent, and expect them to be far, far worse, than anyone they demonize, practically always based on falsehoods, either. The gist:

A longtime internal policy that allowed Justice Department officials to deny the existence of sensitive information could become the law of the land — in effect a license to lie — if a newly proposed rule becomes federal regulation in the coming weeks.

The proposed rule directs federal law enforcement agencies, after personnel have determined that documents are too delicate to be released, to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests “as if the excluded records did not exist.”

Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, says the move appears to be in direct conflict with the administration’s promise to be more open.

“Despite all the talk of transparency, I can’t think of what’s less transparent than saying a document does not exist, when in fact, it does,” Sekulow told Fox News.

Justice Department officials say the practice has been in effect for decades, dating back to a 1987 memo from then-Attorney General Edwin Meese.

In that memo, and subsequent similar internal documents, Justice Department staffers were advised that they could reply to certain FOIA requests as if the documents had never been created. That policy never became part of the law — or even codified as a federal regulation — and it was recently challenged in court.

Sekulow must like irony/sarcasm. It is not like this pattern where these crooks talked about doing one thing – the “better” thing – then did exactly the opposite, and took whatever they had such an issue with before, when they were accusing someone else of being a crook, to new levels, isn’t happening across the board. How many more “promises” were not just broken, but resulted in far more of the behavior they promised to do away with, by these people?

Me, I question the timing of this law. As things are heating up in the “Fast & Furious” investigation, the DOJ, which is front and center in what now clearly appears as a coordinated operation, run on foreign soil, and directed from up on high – all the way to the WH – which funneled weapons in violation of numerous US laws into the hands of drug cartel executioners, with no possible way of tracking these weapons, but a guarantee they would kill many, is looking for cover.

I hazard that they are worried that the LSM ignoring the story isn’t enough, and that they need a way to block FOIA requests from the alternative media which isn’t beholden to them, leading to the public finding out the WH directed them to run this operation, in such a way as to “create the evidence” they needed to back up their accusation that it was lax US gun laws that armed the cartels and caused all the mayhem and murder, and are looking for a way to legally hide the criminal activity. Won’t do much to block a congressional investigation, but it will give them time to hide this till after they are done destroying the country. Lets hope the stink over this rule change torpedoes the whole thing.

All I Do, I Do For You

It’s not easy looking after the folks, not only because of pesky rules and regulations but the folks, being folks, really don’t know what they want anyway, that’s Obama’s job. The president has a vision, a game plan for what America should be, the folks used to be on board, not so much anymore, so sterner measures are needed and he is up to the task.

I’ve mentioned in other posts how by passing Congress with stuff he wants to accomplish, jobs bill , mortgage relief, and in the implementation of The Dream Act, is raising major eye brows. Now he wants to be the gate keeper and decide for himself what information will be made available through the FOIA process and what won’t:

A proposed revision to Freedom of Information Act rules would allow federal agencies to lie to citizens and reporters seeking certain records, telling them the records don’t exist.

The Justice Department has proposed the change as part of a large revision of FOIA rules for federal agencies. Specifically, the rule would direct government agencies who are denying a request under an established FOIA exemption to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist,” rather than citing the relevant exemption.

The proposed rule has alarmed government transparency advocates across the political spectrum, who’ve called it “Orwellian” and say it will “twist” public access to government.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t think he had it in him. Sure, he was great at voting “present” on legislation where he actually had to read a bunch of stuff first, or basking in the radiant adornment of a fawning crowd after another teleprompter gig, but this is big, this type of duplicity is major league. He has grown up right before our eyes.

And speaking of transparency:

Soup bone quote, “The FOIA is the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent”.

Technically, this will save a lot of time and money. Used to be that denied (or redacted) documents asked for through FOIA could be legislated through the courts, making the government show a objective third person body why secrecy is needed over compliance. Now, nothing to litigate, the document does not exist (or so we say) now get off my lawn. To say that there is no prevarications in government, we all now how ridiculous that sounds, but in the past it was always done under the table, now they have official permission.

The whole purpose of the FOIA was transparency, if citizen had questions about the doings of government or government officials, they could get the info straight from the source, not relying on just what the politician said. They could hold the leaders accountable because through this process they would know what they were doing. Not anymore.

Orwellian, indeed.