NCAC joins groups in calling on the White House to reverse a Bush Administration policy that removed the White House’s Office of Administration ("OA") from the list of agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA").
Download the letter as a pdf here.
May 14, 2009
The Honorable Gregory B. Craig
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. Craig:
On behalf of the undersigned organizations concerned with government transparency and accountability, we write to request that the current administration act promptly to restore treatment of the White House’s Office of Administration ("OA") as an agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"). From its inception in 1977 until August 2007, OA functioned consistently as an agency subject to the FOIA, adopting comprehensive FOIA regulations and processing hundreds of FOIA requests. In August 2007, in the midst of litigating a FOIA request brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (“CREW”) for records related to OA’s discovery that millions of e-mail messages were missing from White House servers, the Bush administration abruptly changed course and declared OA is not an agency and therefore need not comply with CREW’s or any other information requests under the FOIA.
This radical departure from the policies and practices of all prior administrations rests on a flawed legal theory that fails to properly consider OA’s role within the Executive Office of the President and its lack of proximity to the President. Mindful that one district court has upheld the Bush administration’s exclusion of OA from the FOIA (a decision now on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit), we nevertheless urge the administration to reverse the Bush administration’s policy and confirm OA’s status as an agency within the meaning of the FOIA. Such a reversal best accords with the actual functioning of the OA and President Obama’s January 21 memoranda concerning transparency and open government.
We, as organizations advocating for government transparency, were heartened by the President’s commitment to creating “an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” As the President noted, “[a] democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” Without question, transparency in the functioning of the Executive Office of the President and its components like OA play a critical role in meeting this commitment.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. Representatives of our organizations would be happy to meet with you or your staff to discuss this matter in more detail.
Anne L. Weismann
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
David L. Sobel
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Mary Alice Baish
American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
Association of American Publishers
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Daniel J. Metcalfe
Collaboration on Government Secrecy
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Responsive Politics
Defending Dissent Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Federation of American Scientists
Fund for Constitutional Government
Government Accountability Project
Mine Safety and Health News
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Coalition for History
Charles N. Davis
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National Security Archive
Progressive Librarians Guild
Project on Government Oversight
Lucy A. Dalglish
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of American Archivists
Society of Professional Journalists
Special Libraries Association
Utah Foundation for Open Government
Washington Coalition for Open Government
Bill Will, General Manager
Washington Newspaper Publishers Association