News and Commentary

TRANSPARENT AS MUD: Obama Administration Spent Record Dollars On Legal Costs To Keep Information Private

According to an Associated Press analysis, the Obama Administration, led by a president who claimed in 2013 that it was “the most transparent administration in history,” spent a record amount of money to defend its refusal to release federal records under the Freedom of Information Act.

As CBS News reports, during the last year of Barack Obama’s tenure, his administration spent a record $36.2 million on legal costs, which broke the record it set the previous year. CBS News added, “It set records for outright denial of access to files, refusing to quickly consider requests described as especially newsworthy, and forcing people to pay for records who had asked the government to waive search and copy fees.”

In the last year of Obama’s tenure, 77% of requests for records were met with censored files or nothing, roughly the same as the prior year, a steep ascent from the 65% in Obama’s first year.

In over one-third of cases where the government refused access, it acknowledged that it had been wrong to do so.

$13 million was spent by the Obama Administration’s Justice Department on legal costs to fight transparency; the Homeland Security Department spent $6.3 million and the Pentagon spent $4.8 million.

The Obama Administration spent a record $478 million answering requests for files after receiving a record 788,769 requests for files last year.

As far back as 2012, the Obama Administration rejected queries from The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union regarding its “targeted killing” program against suspected terrorists; the Obama Justice Department responded that “even to describe the numbers and details of most of these documents would reveal information that could damage the government’s counterterrorism efforts.”

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer replied, “The notion that the CIA’s targeted killing program is still a secret is beyond absurd. Senior officials have discussed it, both on the record and off.”

The ACLU’s Jaffer said, “The public is entitled to know more about the legal authority the administration is claiming and the way that the administration is using it. … We continue to have profound concerns with the power the administration is claiming and with the proposition that the president should be permitted to exercise this power without oversight by the courts.”