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Government Increasingly Invoking National Security to Circumvent FOIA

Alex Abdo,
Former Senior Staff Attorney,
ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project
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March 12, 2013

The government is increasingly relying on a national security pretext to bolster its secrecy claims, an Associated Press report released yesterday reveals. Analysis conducted by the news agency shows that the Obama administration cited legal exemptions to deflect requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act more often in 2012 than in any previous year.

According to the AP report, to justify the withholding of information, the government cited exceptions under FOIA more than 479,000 times last year, a 22 percent increase from 2011. The CIA specifically cited the national security exception in response to 60 percent of the 3,586 requests it received – up from 49 percent in 2011.

I appeared on Democracy Now! earlier today earlier today alongside Jack Gillum, the author of the AP report, to discuss the report’s findings and the dangers of government secrecy. Watch the segment here:

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President Obama promised a new era of transparency when he first took office in 2009, and within the first few months of his presidency, his administration disclosed a handful of tremendously important documents related to the CIA’s torture program. But since then, the government has consistently stonewalled requests for basic yet critical information about its national security policies, such as when it believes it may kill terrorism suspects, including U.S. citizens, far from any battlefield, and the scope of its sweeping surveillance authorities. The Freedom of Information Act was designed to guarantee government transparency and accountability. The administration should recommit itself to the transparency it promised and to the transparency so necessary for our democracy.

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