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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What the Fuck!

Oversight is important, and so is a respect for the law and the Constitution. The president does not get to make his own laws. If he signed a bill into law, he is bound to follow it. Either he understands this principle, and is choosing to ignore it, which is foolish and dangerous, or he doesn't understand this principle, and is a dangerous fool.

"Bush eliminates FOIA ombudsman"
By Rebecca Carr | Monday, February 4, 2008
The Austin American-Statesman

Noticeably absent from President Bush's 2009 budget is funding for the job of
overseeing all Freedom of Information Act disputes.

The ombudsman job at the National Archives and Records Administration was
seen as the centerpiece of legislation passed by Congress last year and signed
by Bush on Dec. 31 to overhaul the beleaguered law.

The president eliminated the job at the archives in his proposed spending plan
and transferred the responsibility to the Justice Department.

After hearing rumors of this for the past two weeks, the open government
community responded in full force, saying there is a conflict in interest in having
Justice oversee complaints about FOIA responses.

"The Bush administration "repealed" a section of the new law," said Patrice
McDermott, executive director of, an umbrella
organization of conservative and liberal groups concerned about government
secrecy. McDermott said the administration hid its actions deep in the Commerce
section of the budget.

"The public should be shocked, as we are, that the president has attempted to
use his budget to repeal a provision of a law he just signed," McDermott said.
"The OPEN Government Act creates an ombudsman office for the public in the
National Archives and the president is not only ignoring this law, but attempting
to re-write a statute-to legislate without Congress. This is an affront to all of us
and it is time for Congress to restore the balance of powers."

The Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of ten media groups dedicated
to open government issues, wrote to lawmakers today objecting to the action.
"Asking the Justice Department to perform the responsibilities creates an
inherent conflict of interest," the letter to lawmakers states. "We encourage the
Congress to fully fund the Office of Government Information Services within the
National Archives. This reflects the plain language of the statute and intent of
Congress in passing the OPEN Government Act. The money should follow the

"For the first time, Congress created an independent ombudsman in the federal
government to help the public," said Rick Blum, coordinator of SGI. "Why quit the
experiment after only 35 days?"

The ombudsman would be an important advocate for the public to better
understand how open government works, resolve disputes and avoid
unnecessary lawsuits when seeking documents from our government, Blum said.

Daniel J. Metcalfe, who ran the Justice Department's Office of Information and
Privacy before retiring to run the Collaboration on Government Secrecy at
American Univeristy's Washington College of Law, found the president's action

"Ironically, this is so transparent: OMB and Justice seek to avoid complying with
this FOIA amendment by instead merely proposing its alteration, and through an
appropriations process that of course won't conclude until near the end of the
year, if even by then," Metcalfe said. "Meanwhile, existing law is flouted, a terrible
example is set for FOIA implementation, and 'the clock is run out' by this
administration. Congress should see through this and not tolerate it."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., who authored the FOIA overhaul with Sen. John
Cornyn, R-Texas, vowed to restore funding for the job at the National Archives.
Leahy suspected that the administration would make this move and said so on
Jan. 24 on the Senate floor.

"Once again, the White House has shown they intend to act contrary to the intent
of Congress," Leahy said.

"The president has repealed part of the law he signed just over a month ago,"
Leahy said. "I will continue to work through the appropriations process to make
sure that the National Archives and Records Administration has the necessary
resources and funds to comply with the OPEN Government Act."

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