Patt Morrison for November 1, 2011

“I can neither confirm nor deny…” Obama’s FOIA exemption

President Obama Speaks At National Italian American Foundation Gala

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking during the 36th annual National Italian American Foundation Gala October 29, 2011 in Washington, DC.

President Obama may have brought us @opengov on Twitter, but he seems to be just as unwilling to share some controversial information with the American people as his predecessor.

He has refused to make public provisions of the Patriot Act and photographs documenting the abuse of POWs. A new proposed regulation drafted by the Department of Justice, if approved, would give government agencies the green light to circumvent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by denying the existence of the documents requested. Currently, federal agencies can opt-out by answering, “I can neither confirm nor deny…”, but the new proposal allows them to go a step further. It prompted the L.A. Times to write, in an editorial dated October 31, “This policy is outrageous. It provides a license for the government to lie to its own people and makes a mockery of FOIA.”


Is the motivation behind this to protect our national security, as the President asserts, or to “protect the government from embarrassment” as the L.A. Times reports?


Anne Weismann, chief counsel, CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

John Voskuhl, Bloomberg News Editor

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