The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Monday, February 11, 2008

FOIA ombudsman

After many years, Texas Senator John Cornyn and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy were able, in the FY2008-9 budget, to allocate money for a FOIA ombudsman--someone to whom citizens could appeal when their Freedom of Information Act requests didn't get answered in the specified 20 days--when they hear nothing for, perhaps, 20 years. Finally, on New Year's Eve 2007, Bush signed a bill that authorized this position.

But then he didn't, burying an elimination of the position in the Commerce Department budget, released on Feb. 4. Cornyn--a right-wing Republican who up until now hasn't seen a thing Bush did that he didn't luuuurve--and Leahy are trying to get Bush to change his mind.

It shouldn't shock anyone that the Bush administration wants to close off citizens' access to government records; this has been the M.O. from pretty much day one. (Innocents, we thought it was just about denying access to Iran-Contra records naming his daddy. If only we'd known then that he has no problem undercutting George H.W., that this position came from a philosophical stance that citizens have no right to know what the gov't does or why.) I heard about this only today, and it hits home: I'm on the verge of having to sail into FOIA territory, as I'm doing research in Cold War-era CIA and State Department records, and all I hear from people working in this field is Don't Count On It.

Here's a letter from "" to the House Appropriations Committee on the subject.

It took over a month for anyone to notice this had happened. The damage from this Administration will be with us for decades--and it'll take years just to find out what they've done, much less the ultimate effects of those acts.


  • At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Minor quibble: The president released his budget on Monday, Feb. 4, and the paragraph deleting the ombudsman was noticed that morning.

  • At 8:43 PM, Blogger mantooth said…

    noted and correction made.


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