White House: Obstruction To The Nth. Degree? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

No Access

At some point, it is impossible to avoid suspecting that the Bush administration has something to hide...something that they are willing to keep from the American public regardless of expense, regardless of propriety, and even regardless of their own written words.

The Washington Post is reporting that the White House, in a motion responding to a lawsuit initiated by Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington (CREW), is now asserting that the White House Office of Administration isn't subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

CREW is seeking information related to the reported deletion of some five million emails...some of which were thought to be relevant to the investigation into the firing of a number of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush administration.

The Bush administration argued in court papers this week that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as part of its effort to fend off a civil lawsuit seeking the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers.

The claim, made in a motion filed Tuesday by the Justice Department, is at odds with a depiction of the office on the White House's own Web site. As of yesterday, the site listed the Office of Administration as one of six presidential entities subject to the open-records law, which is commonly known by its abbreviation, FOIA.

CREW said it understood that internal White House documents had estimated at least 5 million e-mails were missing from March 2003 to October 2005.

The Bush administration has not provided a number publicly. Some of the records may have been subject to a document preservation law administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said that "one has to wonder if this is an effort by the White House to keep secret the details of how millions of White House e-mail suddenly went missing. The OA's disingenuous claim that it is not subject to the FOIA is contradicted by its own actions and statements."

[...] the Office of Administration, which was formed in 1977 and handles various administrative and technology duties, responded to 65 FOIA requests last year and even has its own FOIA officer, records show.

In its 20-page motion, the Justice Department argues that past behavior is irrelevant, pointing to a 1996 appellate court ruling that found the White House-based National Security Council was not covered by FOIA even though it had complied with the law previously.

I keep coming back to the same question...why is the White House so focused upon preventing the public from seeing this information? Not only has this office previously provided access to information under the FOIA, it has an employee on staff intended to handle such matters. If the office isn't subject to the FOIA, why would it need an employee for such activities? The only rational answer is that the release of the information being sought by CREW would suggest acts of impropriety.

Look, I understand that Washington is a very partisan environment and no doubt both parties seek opportunities to embarrass and discredit the opposition. As such, I expect for there to be some level of resistance to fishing expeditions that may be intended to do little more than find political ammunition.

Notwithstanding, the degree to which the White House seems willing to resist any and all investigations cannot be ignored. I've said it before and I'll state it again, "I haven't seen this level of obfuscation since Richard Nixon"...and that is certainly a discomforting realization.

Perhaps this persistent resistance is nothing more than an indication of the President's confrontational Texas cowboy mentality...and a realization that being the sitting President gives one significant latitude...latitude that might as well be used to advantage. The fact that George Bush depicted himself as a uniter prior to his election only adds to the angst many voters experience when witnessing his affinity for acrimony.

If the White House has, in fact, played fast and loose with the law, it seems safe to assume that it will eventually be exposed. Whether that happens prior to the end of his second term remains open to debate.

Frankly, I'm just looking forward to that point in time when the voting public can focus its attention on the actions of a new President...one who we can hope won't be so obsessed with keeping the citizenry in the dark.

Image courtesy of Talk Left

Tagged as: CREW, George W. Bush, Justice Department, U.S. Attorneys, White House Office of Administration

Daniel DiRito | August 23, 2007 | 10:06 AM
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