The problem stretches from town halls through statehouses to the White House, where the Obama administration took office promising to act promptly when people asked for information and never to withhold files just because they might be embarrassing.
Act promptly? Hardly.
Shortly after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing over the South China Sea, we asked the Pentagon’s top satellite imagery unit, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, what the U.S. was doing to help the search.
Agencies are supposed to give at least a preliminary response to such questions within 20 days. A full year later, after the largest and most expensive search in aviation history, the agency is telling us only it has too many FOIA requests to meet its deadlines.
A few months ago, the Treasury Department sent us 237 pages in its latest response to our requests regarding Iran trade sanctions. Nearly all 237 pages were completely blacked out, on the basis that they contained businesses’ trade secrets.
When was our request? Nine years ago.
It takes the State Department about 18 months to answer — or refuse to answer — anything other than a simple request. This week we filed a lawsuit against the department for failing to turn over files covering Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one request we made five full years ago.