Press Ignores How Judicial Watch Had to Go to Court to Force Obama Admin to Respond to FOIA Requests

May 21st, 2014 9:27 AM

During the Obama administration, the Associated Press has annually gone through the motions of noting its lack of transparency in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests. In March, its coverage of 2013 FOIA results led with the following sentence: "The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data." Then everyone went back to work defending the administration against the information seekers.

Part of that defense includes mischaracterizing the legal hurdles those who file FOIA requests must overcome to get the administration to do what it is legally required to do right off the bat. Three sentences from recent coverage of Judicial Watch's attempts to pry information out of the State Department will make my point.


At the Washington Post on May 15, Robert Costa wrote the following:

Thomas J. Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has obtained documents related to the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, talked up his group’s ability to pressure the White House through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Here what Michael D. Shear at the New York Times wrote on April 30 concerning the Benghazi emails Judicial Watch obtained in an article which the paper buried on Page A8 of its print edition — in the "World" section:

The email dated Sept. 14, 2012, from Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, to Ms. Rice was obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Finally, here's Kevin Drum at the left-wing rag known as Mother Jones on May 6:

Last week, in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by Judicial Watch, the White House released a memo related to Benghazi that was authored by Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communication.

The trouble is, as John Hayward made clear in an excellent essay Tuesday morning at Human Events, the records weren't obtained via FOIA requests. They were shaken loose as a result of FOIA lawsuits (italics are his; bolds, except as noted, are mine):

... It’s nothing short of astonishing that none of the big FOIA bombshells are coming from our huge, well-staffed, highly funded media organizations. And they’re not exactly eager to pump the headlines full of astonishing truth, even when someone else drops it into their laps.

Judicial Watch, which did investigative work the mainstream media willfully refused to do on the Benghazi and IRS scandals, just emerged from the Obama Temple of Doom with yet another long-lost treasure of hard information: a 106-page document from the Department of Health and Human Services, revealing the breathtaking scope of the ObamaCare launch disaster. In accordance with standard Obama scandal protocols, all of this information was kept from the public until a few crucial news cycles had rolled past.

Let us note, as too much reporting on these latter-day revelations fails to do, that this HHS document was procured with a lawsuit, not a Freedom of Information Act “request.” (This sentence's bold was Hayward's. — Ed.) Judicial Watch made such a request in October 2013, but the Obama Administration illegally refused to comply, prompting the watchdog group to follow up with court action in late November.

The people who call themselves “reporters” will probably relegate this new document to Page A-26 and claim it’s all “old news.” The important thing to remember is that they refused to report it, or even push hard for the information, back when it was piping-hot news, and might have caused public anger to grow incandescently hot. Obama’s political team understands that every scandal grows less damaging over time, if you have a friendly media that doesn’t make a big deal about the outrageous stonewalling necessary to drag out damaging revelations.

One of the amazing facts in this HHS document was already revealed long after it would have provoked a firestorm of national outrage: only one ObamaCare enrollment was received on the first day of history’s most expensive website launch.  But the other details unearthed by Judicial Watch paint a portrait of staggering incompetence and mendacity ...

... It cannot be stressed enough that all of this information was kept from the American people, for no good reason.  ObamaCare isn’t some national-security project whose failure would jeopardize public safety, if it became known to America’s enemies.  Every one of these developments should have been forthrightly admitted to the public immediately.  There is no justification for the Obama Administration keeping us in the dark “for our own good,” to prevent angry voters from acting against the wishes of their benevolent masters in the next election.

... we get far less transparency and accountability when Big Government and Big Business get together to unleash their mutant progeny upon the population.  We get spokespeople and their willing media enablers lying about how everything is going fine, when it clearly isn’t.  The people who preside over unspeakable disasters are allowed to retire gracefully, with thanks for all their hard work.  Top officials cite their lack of awareness of critical problems as a defense against being held responsible for failure.

... And even when the media knows that everything they’ve been instructed to relay to us about ObamaCare was a lie, they grant default credibility to the next set of fairy tales. ...

... Update: Have document requests been filed with the Obama Administration by the local reporters investigating the Serco scandal mentioned above?  Why, yes, they have.  And maybe one day, six months or a year from now, after a couple of lawsuits, we might finally get to see those documents. But for right now, the usual stonewall is in effect, as the high and mighty mainstream press slumbers on.

We also might not get to see them at all. The TV station may decide that it can't afford the legal fees associated with a FOIA lawsuit, or it might want to avoid a possible Obama administration effort to go after its license to broadcast.

By describing Judicial Watch's results as coming about because of FOIA "requests," the press is covering up the Obama administration's illegal lack of transparency. Since they know the difference between a request and a lawsuit, they are aiding and abetting the administration's lawlessness by not exposing it.

Proving Hayward's point, searches on "Serco" at the Associated Press's national site and at the New York Times at 8:45 a.m. ET today both came up devoid of any news of the hundreds upon hundreds of employees at the Obamacare contractor who do little or no work, day after day after day. As I noted on Sunday, the AP treated the matter as only worthy of local coverage last week.

Cross-posted at