Report: DHS Filtered Hundreds of Public Records Requests Through Political Appointees

From Wired Threat Level

  • By Kim Zetter Email Author
  • July 22, 2010
  • Contrary to the Obama administration’s promised commitment to open government, the Department of Homeland Security, in a highly irregular move, filtered hundreds of public records requests through political appointees, allowing them to pass judgment on what was being released, according to internal e-mails obtained by the Associated Press.

    The political appointees were allowed to vet records requests that were deemed politically sensitive and require career employees to provide them with information about who requested records — for example, where the requester lived and worked, whether the requester was a private citizen or journalist and, in the case of congressional representatives, whether they were Republican or Democrat.

    The DHS issued a directive to employees in July 2009 requiring a wide range of public records requests to pass through political appointees for vetting. These included any requests dealing with a “controversial or sensitive subject” or pertaining to meetings involving prominent business leaders and elected officials. Requests from lawmakers, journalists, and activist and watchdog groups were also placed under this scrutiny.

    The reviewers included Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano’s top staff members, including her deputy chief of staff, senior department lawyer and deputy director of scheduling.

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