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Deputy Associate White House Counsel: “please don’t have them reach out to any reporters before I can clear it w/ wh [White House] press.”

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Washington, DC — October 18, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents detailing the Obama White House decision to close to reporters a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) training workshop conducted by the Office of Information Policy (OIP) in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Judicial Watch obtained the documents from the OIP in response to a FOIA request filed on December 7, 2009, the same day the workshop was held.
The documents consist of a series of emails between White House staff and the Director of the OIP, and include the following statements:

  • “I am going to touch base with my public affairs office re your suggestion to get their reaction. I, personally don’t object as my message is the same whether the event is open or not. Our concern had been solely with the inhibiting effect it would have on the gov’t ’ees [employees] who might not speak freely if press are there.” — Melanie Pustay, OIP Director, to Blake Roberts, Deputy Associate White House counsel, December 6, 2009.
  • “Ok – please don’t have them reach out to any reporters before I clear w/ wh [White House] press.” — Blake Roberts to Melanie Pustay, December 6, 2009.
  • “After talking with… ben labolt [then-Assistant White House Press Secretary], the decision is that the training will be closed to the press.” — Gina Talamona, Press Release Deputy Director for the DOJ to Melanie Pustay and Brian Hauck, Counsel to the Associate Attorney General, December 7, 2009.
  • “I think you have the right to give closed training when you want it.” — Brian Hauck to Melanie Pustay and Gina Talamona.

The documents also include a statement by OIP Director Melanie Pustay regarding previous FOIA workshops: “So far I have always held parallel sessions, one for agency ‘ees [employees] and then one that is open.”The training conference, held on December 7, 2009, was jointly hosted by the OIP and the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) as a private workshop to provide tips to FOIA public liaison staff members on communicating, negotiating, and resolving disputes with individuals and organizations submitting FOIA requests.The fact the Obama administration chose to close the transparency workshop to the public led to criticism that the president was reneging on his promises of openness and transparency. On his first full day in office Barack Obama promised to “usher in a new era of open government” and directed agencies to administer the FOIA “with a clear presumption: in the face of doubt, openness prevails.” President Obama further instructed agencies that information should not be withheld merely because “public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”“There is a scandalously wide gap between Barack Obama’s rhetoric on transparency and the secretive policies of his administration,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “These documents suggest that it is the Obama White House that is directly responsible for this unprecedented lack of transparency. Only in Washington would political appointees think it appropriate to keep secret a government workshop on transparency. And only in Washington would a politician promote his efforts on transparency while simultaneously taking steps to keep the American people in the dark about their government.”

Contact Information:
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305

Washington, DC — March 14, 2011

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton will provide testimony to this week’s Senate and House hearings on government compliance to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He will, on behalf of the government watchdog Judicial Watch, focus on whether the Obama administration’s transparency promises are being kept. Judicial Watch has filed over 325 Freedom of Information requests with the Obama administration, and has been forced to file 44 lawsuits to force the Obama administration to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing is entitled “The Freedom of Information Act: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in the Digital Age.” Senator Patrick Joseph Leahy (D-VT) is Chairman of the Committee, Senator Charles E. “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA) is the Ranking Minority Member. To view the Senate Judiciary proceedings Tuesday live online, click here: http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/

  • When: Tuesday, March 15, 201110:15 AM ET
  • Where: Dirksen Senate Office BuildingRoom 226

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing is entitled “The Freedom of Information Act: Crowd-Sourcing Government Oversight.” Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is Chairman of the Committee, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) is the Ranking Minority Member. To view the House Government Reform and Oversight proceedings Thursday live online click here: http://oversight.house.gov/

  • When: Thursday, March 17, 20119:30 AM ET
  • Where: Rayburn House BuildingRoom 2154

The hearings are being held as part of Sunshine Week 2011 — March 13-19. Sunshine Week is a national initiative by the news media, nonprofits and other organizations interested in promoting government transparency.

Contact Information:
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305

Washington, DC — February 10, 2011

Judicial Watch announces its participation in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), February 10-12 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Road, NW, Washington, DC. Along with an information booth in the Exhibit Hall, Judicial Watch will be providing live updates via their Corruption Chronicles blog. Judicial Watch will also host a panel discussion and a transparency seminar.
Overall, Judicial Watch’s CPAC 2011 activities will include:

  • Saturday 10:00 AM Panel:

    Government Gone Wild: The Transparency Cure — Marshall Ballroom
    Joelle Cannon, Office of Senator Tom Coburn
    Chris Edwards, Cato Institute
    Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner
    Moderator: Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch

  • Saturday 11:00 AM Seminar:

    Compelling Transparency through the Freedom of Information Act — Jackson Room
    Instructor: Chris Farrell, Dir. Investigations & Research
    Coffee and Beverages Served

  • Corruption Chronicles blogger Irene Garcia will be working live from CPAC 1 PM Thursday thru Saturday 12 PM

“Americans are opposed to the unprecedented expansion of government power and secrecy. With our participation in CPAC, Judicial Watch is proud to stand with other conservatives to say ‘enough is enough.’ We must fight for ethics, accountability and transparency on Capitol Hill and in White House — that is our message for CPAC,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.About CPAC: Taking place in Washington, DC each year, CPAC brings together nearly 10,000 attendees and all of the leading conservative organizations and speakers who impact conservative thought in the nation. Regularly seen on C-SPAN and other national news networks, CPAC has been the premiere event for any major elected official or public personality seeking to discuss issues of the day with conservatives. From Presidents of the United States to college student leaders, CPAC has become the place to find our nation’s current and future leaders.About Judicial Watch, Inc.: Judicial Watch, a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach. The motto of Judicial Watch is “Because no one is above the law.” To this end, Judicial Watch uses the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to investigate and uncover misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.

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