As of Tuesday, the White House Office of Administration will no longer have to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The White House contends this move is consistent with court rulings.
USA Today reported Monday that a notice is being entered into the Federal Register based on what the White House is describing as “well-settled legal interpretations of the Office of Administration’s status under Federal law and Executive Orders, including the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act of 1974, and Executive Order 13526.”
While other offices within the White House are not subject to FOIA, the Office of Administration has responded to requests for more than 30 years. The office has many functions, among them record keeping – including emails. This will affect the Office of Administration’s seven offices.
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- Office of the Director
- Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
- Office of the Chief Financial Officer
- Office of the Chief Information Officer
- Office of the Chief Operations Services
- Office of the General Counsel
- Office of Equal Employment Opportunity
The Office of Administration was not subject to FOIA “because it performs only operational and administrative tasks in support of the president and his staff and therefore, under our precedent, lacks substantial independent authority,” according to a 2009 federal appeals court ruling in Washington. USA Today explains:
The appeals court ruled that the White House was required to archive the emails, but not release them under the FOIA. Instead, White House e-mails must be released under the Presidential Records Act — but not until at least five years after the end of the administration.
“This is an office that operated under the FOIA for 30 years, and when it became politically inconvenient, they decided they weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act any more,” Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch told USA Today.
The publication also noted the irony in the timing of the action. This week is “Sunshine Week,” which according to its website is a “national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.”
A complete list of participating media outlets can be found here.
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