Judicial Watch • Homeland Sec. Blocks Politically Sensitive Public Records

Homeland Sec. Blocks Politically Sensitive Public Records

Homeland Sec. Blocks Politically Sensitive Public Records

MARCH 17, 2011

In an act of retaliation, the Obama Administration demoted a senior career employee at the Department of Homeland Security for blowing the whistle on political appointees who illegally interfered with public records requests.This certainly contradicts President Obama’s repeated promise to run the most transparent administration in history. Americans have already seen many examples of how the administration has violated its own transparency guarantees but this case, exposed by a national news organization, ranks among the more atrocious examples.It involves a veteran Homeland Security lawyer (Catherine Papoi) who worked as a deputy unit chief in charge of handling public records requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Papoi told the agency’s inspector general that hundreds of public records requests had been illegally sidetracked to Obama advisers because the documents were considered politically sensitive.The administration officials delayed release and demanded information about the watchdog groups, journalists and others requesting the materials. If a member of congress requested documents, Homeland Security employees were ordered to specify if it was a Republican or Democrat who put in the order.Papoi, who is currently on leave, flat out said that political appointees broke the law by knowingly and intentionally delaying and obstructing the release of agency records under FOIA. Anyone who has ever requested records from the government, as Judicial Watch regularly does, knows well that this sort of stonewalling happens all the time even though it’s illegal.So is retaliating against whistleblowers that expose wrongdoing, although that happens routinely as well. In a letter to the Obama Administration, the chairman of the House committee that investigates government fraud, waste and abuse accuses it of retaliating against Papoi and warns that “obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime.”The hard-hitting letter urges Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to remind employees about their rights and whistleblower protections and to make agency managers aware of the consequences for retaliation against witnesses who furnish information to congress. Not surprisingly, the agency denies any wrongdoing.

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