FOIA Needs A Major Overhaul and Reboot

I received some documents the other day as the result of a FOIA request, and as has been my experience in past requests, a lot of stuff is blacked out that I suspect is redacted merely to protect the agency and its managers from embarrassment rather than for reasons actually allowed in the FOIA rules.  Despite President Obama's claims to run the most transparent administration in history, I believe the problems have only gotten worse over the last decade.  The Administration even limited its own inspectors' general access to information  [how the hell does one punctuate the possessive of the plural of inspector general??].

Generally I do not have the time or resources to get to the bottom of these things, but folks in Congress do.  One of the patterns we have observed in the wrangling of Republicans in Congress with the Department of Justice over the last year have been releases of documents that are initially heavily redacted, and then latter re-released with fewer redactions.  The pattern we are finding is that many of the first redactions were not justified under any of the privilege rules that exist.  They were merely things the agency did not want anyone else to know.

My favorite example comes from Eric Felton in the Weekly Standard:

Some of the questionable redactions, by contrast, are charming efforts at bureaucratic butt-covering. Lisa Page, for example, was discussing with Peter Strzok the challenge of having an intimate meeting in Andrew McCabe’s conference room, given the size of his grand new conference table. “No way to change the room,” Page texts in the version provided by Justice. “The table alone was [REDACTED]. (You can’t repeat that!)” Hmmm, what classified, top-secret, national-security information could possibly have been redacted? The blacked out bit, it seems, was a simple “70k.” The DoJ—and can you blame them, really?—didn’t want Congress to know they were in the habit of spending $70,000 on a conference table.

10 Comments

  1. CapitalistRoader:

    [how the hell does one punctuate the possessive of the plural of inspector general??]

    Exactly like that. I have ailanthus altissimas [Tree of Heaven] putting up suckers in my yard. Those Trees' of Heaven smell is terrible, in addiction to their prolific suckering.

  2. jimc5499:

    The Obama Administration was as transparent as concrete.

  3. billyjoerob:

    It would be hard to find a conf table that costs that much. The number has to be closer to $7,000.

  4. Agammamon:

    Inspectors Generals

  5. Rusty Bill:

    Nope. Inspectors general. Just the first word is pluralized: attorneys general, surgeons general, etc.

  6. jdgalt:

    Inspectors' General. Without an apostrophe you don't have a possessive (except for possessive pronouns such as mine, yours, and its), and that's the only logical place for it to go.

  7. ErikTheRed:

    Orwell is in some other dimension rolling his eyes and muttering that he warned us...

  8. Zach:

    In multiple word titles, it's the noun, not necessarily the first word that is pluralized. You are correct about "attorneys general" and so on, but to pluralize the full title for "CEO", for example, it would be "Chief Executive Officers", not "Chiefs Executive Officer".

  9. Rusty Bill:

    Noted. I was... imprecise.