Congressman Darrell Issa has written a scathing five-page letter to the Department of Homeland Security stating it demoted an employee who blew the whistle on the department’s illegal stonewalling of Obama’s political foes. Issa, who is the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to Janet Napolitano that the action had the appearance of “retaliation” and that “Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime.”
Issa states that Catherine Papoi, who was DHS deputy unit chief in charge of the Freedom of Information Act, was passed over for a promotion and forced to vacate her office the day after she met with investigators.
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Ironically, the Associated Press reported the story the same day Barack Obama was set to receive an award for government transparency to kick off “Sunshine Week.” Obama canceled the event.
Last March, Papoi went to the DHS Inspector General to complain of “hundreds” of cases of illegal stonewalling. The IG report has yet to be released a year later. She then turned to Issa.
Papoi said officials are “breaking the law by knowingly and intentionally delaying and obstructing the release of agency records.”
The Associated Press describes the 1,000 pages of e-mails it obtained, which shed light on the process. “Career employees were ordered to provide political staff with information about the people who asked for records — such as where they lived and whether they were private citizens or reporters — and about the organizations where they worked,” according to AP. The Obama administration blacked out 194 pages of the e-mails it released to the news service, which deal with transparency.
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Obama’s point woman on Judicial Department transparency, Melanie Pustay, admitted administration officials were told the political affiliations of those making Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests “for awareness and management purposes, and that’s all.”
This author has reported that conservatives making FOIA requests have waited as long as six months or received no response whatever, while liberals received prompt responses. The Media Research Center has filed suit against the Justice Department, stating the Obama administration is stonewalling requests about Elena Kagan’s role in ObamaCare. Many Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, believe her role as Obama’s Solicitor General gives at least the appearance of a conflict of interest. However, Kagan refused to recuse herself when the Supreme Court chose not to review a case on ObamaCare last November.
Conservatives believe the administration is dragging its feet so that Kagan can cast the deciding vote in the final challenge before the court.
Less Transparent than Bush
Critics note Obama has a higher FOIA denial rate than George W. Bush, whom Obama harshly criticized. Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, has said the Obama administration has “stonewalled even the most basic FOIA requests.”
No less than 80 percent of all denials come from the DHS.
But the Obama administration has a lousy record on FOIA transparency on all fronts. It has denied more than one-third of all FOIA requests in 2010 and was less likely to grant urgent requests.
Only 49 of 90 federal agencies have taken “at least some steps” to improve transparency since Obama’s inauguration, according to a study from National Security Archive at George Washington University and the Knight Foundation. That is, barely half have taken any action at all. (You can see an agency-by-agency chart here.) Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, stated, “At this rate, it’ll be the end of his term before the agencies do what Obama asked them to do on the first day.”
Another Brick in the Stonewall
Papoi is merely one federal employee with the courage to speak out on illegality in her department. DHS is one department in one branch of the huge and ever-growing federal government. How many more departments are subject to political tampering from the Obama administration?
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, would like to know. He has asked “dozens” of agency inspectors whether similar complaints have been made there.
Regulations aside, the Obama thuggocracy makes life hard on whistleblowers. “I knew full well I could be jeopardizing my career, but I have to be able to sleep at night,” Papoi wrote yesterday.
Assistant DHS Secretary Nelson Peacock has insisted, “The department has not taken any retaliatory action against employees that have provided information to your committee.” However, the administration is known for twisting the arms of its political enemies and greasing the skids for its would-be friends.
Obama’s Justice Department busted Christopher Coates down from chief of its Voting Rights division to a satellite office in South Carolina, so he could not testify about the department’s racial bias. He had to invoke whistleblower protection to move forward – and according to J. Christian Adams, another forthright witness, the administration “fixed” the report on the Black Panther case authored by the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
The DHS’s thuggish treatment of Papoi is simultaneously abysmal and emblematic of an administration contemptuous of the law. It is heartening to see Congressman Issa bringing some much-needed accountability.