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Government trampling on people’s right to know under Freedom of Information Act

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question ” If an incident report was filled out, do I have a right to receive a copy?”

 

What are “White House equities?” No one seems to know. The Obama administration has never defined the term, but it uses it in order to delay “the ability of federal agencies to timely respond to FOIA requests,” according to the Washington Post.

Secret File Charlotte Injury Lawyer North Carolina Wrongful Death AttorneyWhat are FOIA requests? FOIA is an acronym that stands for the Freedom of Information Act. The Act was enacted by Congress in 1966 to, according to the government, “give the American public greater access to the federal government’s records.” In general, the United States was founded as a government by and for the people; FOIA is a means by which the people of the United States can stay “in the know about their government.”

Individual citizens may request information from government agencies, citing FOIA. Many legal and public interest groups use FOIA requests to uncover information that they believe further their causes or prove that their suspicions about government agencies are up to are true.

Some information cannot be disclosed. Information regarding ongoing criminal investigations, criminal informants and the existence of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence are excluded from production pursuant to FOIA. In addition, a range of other types of information is exempted or privileged from production under the Act.

News outlets have reported in recent days that the Obama administration is abusing its authority in order to stop the legitimate disclosure of information sought via FOIA requests. Some of the highest-ranking officers in the government have been accused of trying to hide politically embarrassing information by stonewalling and denying requests for information.

Author Ronald Kessler wrote that his FOIA requests for details and costs of Vice President Joe Biden’s personal trips were blocked by Biden’s office. Biden staffers told Air Force officers not to comment to anyone about Biden’s travel expenses and not to release 95 pages of documents it compiled in order to comply with Kessler’s request.

A conservative group, Cause of Action, has brought suit against twelve federal agencies that it says have failed to turn over requested documents in a timely manner. Cause of Action cited an April 2009 memo produced by Gregory Craig, former counsel to President Obama. The memo ordered federal agencies to consult with the President’s lawyer on “all document requests that may involve documents with White House equities.”

The Washington Post reports that FOIA requests for information that may be perceived as politically embarrassing have been frequently sidetracked or sidelined. A 2010 Associated Press report showed that FOIA requests to the Department of Homeland Security were “detoured” to senior political advisors for additional scrutiny. The political advisors probed for information about the people or groups requesting information and delayed disclosure of information that was seen as politically sensitive.

In its lawsuit, Cause of Action has asked a federal court to order agencies to make final determinations regarding outstanding FOIA requests within 30 days.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.

 

 

About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAWMatthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2014/08/18/lawsuit-claims-white-house-reviews-hinder-foia-requests/

http://www.foia.gov/

http://www.fcc.gov/foia

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/08/19/joe-biden-stonewalled-foia-request-to-hide-travel-costs/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxnews%2Fmost-popular+(Internal+-+Most+Popular+Content)

http://www.foia.gov/how-to.html

http://www.foia.gov/faq.html#exclusions

 

 

Image Credit

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d2/FOIA-square.jpg

 

 

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