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Judicial Watch • 14 3 19 transcript Transparency Crisis

14 3 19 transcript Transparency Crisis

14 3 19 transcript Transparency Crisis

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Category:Panel Transcripts

Number of Pages:19

Date Created:April 8, 2014

Date Uploaded to the Library:April 08, 2014

Tags:cfpb, Benghazi, Obama, White House, Supreme Court, EPA, IRS, ICE, CIA

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 Transparency Crisis Panel  
Tom Fitton 
President, Judicial Watch  
Christopher Horner, 
Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute; Director Litigation, Free Market Environmental Law Institute 
Mark Tapscott 
Executive Editor, The Washington Examiner 
Dan Epstein 
Executive Director, Cause for Action 
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 
Judicial Watch 
425 Third Street 
Suite 800 
Washington, 20024 
TOM FITTON:  Okay, well, think were ready begin.  Are ready begin the back?  Thank you. 
Good afternoon everyone.  Welcome our D.C. Transparency Crisis panel.  Im Tom Fitton, president Judicial Watch.  Judicial Watch conservative nonpartisan organization dedicated promoting transparency, accountability and integrity government politics and the law.  Through our educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards ethics and morality our nations public life and seeks ensure that political and judicial officials obey the law and not abuse the powers entrusted them the American people.   
And, said, our panel today takes look the D.C. transparency crisis.  Our government bigger than ever but also the most secretive recent memory.  President Obama promised the most transparent administration history but its agencies are often black holes terms disclosure. know what were talking about.  Judicial Watch has filed over 2,500 Freedom Information Act requests with the Obama administration and had sue over 140 times enforce the open records laws.  And just this week, our own special way celebrating sunshine week, filed three lawsuits get basic information about what the government to.  Two are over, surprise, Obamacare, and one was behalf the Washington Examiner, which Ill let Mark Tapscott talk you about.   
Government transparency conservative issue.  For years, FOIA was the lefts playground, dare say it, but Judicial Watch changed that and used FOIA the service limited, accountable government.  Now have educated conservative movement that willing the hard work investigating government corruption and misconduct.  And unlike the left, we, conservatives, understand that big government the complete opposite transparency.   
You know, the founding fathers appreciated government transparency well. James Madison wrote, popular government without popular information the means requiring but prologue farce tragedy perhaps both.  Knowledge will forever govern ignorance and people who mean their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.  Transparency about self-government. dont know what the government doing, how that self-government?  Frankly, how that even republic?   
Congressional oversight sorely lacking, lacking all fronts.  You know, Congress like fire department that shows after your house burns down and shouts fire.  Even President Obama, flailing for excuse over his IRSs massive oppression his political opponents suggested that the government was too big and had way effectively monitoring his own agencies.  And, too often, the fifth estate acts rep for big government and fails the hard work keeping watch government waste, fraud, and abuse.  And even under FOIA law, the courts have deferred the  (inaudible)  the executive branch and 
have made more difficult for the American people find out how their tax dollars are being used misused.   
Now, this has all led the transparency crisis here D.C.  Never our history has much money been spent with little accountability.  Were happy you here fight for transparency but need more support and more organizations, more activists, more journalists and more politicians take the issue secret government.  
Now, let introduce our panelists. left Christopher Horner, who senior fellow with the Washington, D.C., think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and director litigation for the Free Market Environmental Law Institute.  Chris works legal and  works the legal and policy level with numerous think tanks and policy organizations around the world and serves the executive committee the Federalist Societys International Law Practice Group. prolific author books and articles. has testified before state legislative bodies, the United States Senate Committees Foreign Relations and Environment and Public Works and various other bodies the House and Senate.  And Politico called Horner master FOIA who bedevils the White House.  And were going learn about that. 
Mark Tapscott, right, executive editor the Washington Examiner. Hes previously served editorial page editor and appears regularly Fox, and MSNBC, and talk radio. was named conservative journalist the year the 2008 Conservative CPAC and was inducted into the  someone induced then induct him into the First Amendment Centers Freedom Information Act Hall Fame 2006.  And hes well-recognized expert FOIA and has testified Senate and House committees government transparency issues. 
And Dan Epstein the executive director Cause Action, nonpartisan organization that uses public advocacy and legal reform tools ensure greater transparency government, protect taxpayer interests and promote economic freedom.  And was the other side the  the street, Congress, because prior joining Cause Action, Epstein served the U.S. House Representatives for several years counsel for oversight investigation the Committee Oversight and Government Reform. was the lead counsel tax, labor, non-profit and federal grant spending investigations and oversight. anyone who has complaints about those topics, you know where you  who initially complain.   
But thank you all for joining us.  And have lot cover here.  Our panelists will make presentation.  Well talk among ourselves and then well try get some audience participation well. remind you keep your cell phones buzz off for the duration.   
And Ill turn over Mr. Horner.  Thank you, Chris. 
CHRISTOPHER HORNER:  Thank you, Tom.  And, everyone, was going big picture today with lofty discourse this, with this absurd vow the most transparency administration history meant  which will, course, down with the administrations you like your doctor, you can keep him period, the history matching the period emphasis really begged what the world they were thinking when they made this claim over and over again.  And the case this administration, not just obviously poll tested talking point that 
people wanted hear but after they were elected, and even immediately after the inauguration, what were they to?   
Well, briefly that, what this meant was those Bush records are coming out, and theyre coming out quickly, and volume.  And youre friend, Christian Adams and and others have shown, youll get what you ask for you want something.  Youll get sometimes overnight. youre not, youre deemed inconvenient, may not even acknowledge your request, Ive experienced many occasions, have others, including journalists viewed too conservative but otherwise inconvenient.   
But there was spectacular lie the press today, the Washington Times front-page article EPA, and was lie  use the term advisedly. only just saw the train when came little bit ago.  Im going focus debunking what they claim.  The lie was this.  This from the text the story.   
EPA officials said they dont play favorites when comes handling requests and beyond many other agencies posting online the information they release response requests.  The latter part true.  Quote, We process all incoming FOIA requests with the same consideration regardless affiliation, not-for-profit status, geography, cetera.   
Well, thats simply and brazenly untrue. fact, have not one but two correspondents from EPA, from two separate offices, one from the office the administrator and one from the office general counsel responding regard CEI requests.  One them said, are dealing with requests from you and your affiliated organizations together, which its face improper.  No, you are deal  the statement acknowledges, youre not treat people  well deal with yours group and well deal with things that come from you certain way. fact, response one request regarding the false identity  one has ever done this.  The spin just that  the false identity e-mail account Richard Windsor. response requests there, they said, will satisfy this very slow rate 100 records per month for 100 years, after which will then get the following list your request.  And they listed requests that not only werent from me, werent from CEI but werent even from but happened from groups for which also work.  They were treating anybody affiliated with  way, they denied they treat people today, the Washington Times, but, obviously, disparately and with bias.   
And, fact, their bias has gotten cartoonish that after series denying our fee waivers, EPA  possibly other agencies, but EPA treating conservative groups deemed unfriendly the way the IRS has been demonstrated treating conservative groups.  Theyre placing financial hurdles their way, wearing them down.  They can say, well, never actually sent you bill.  Well, that proves too much.  You owe bill, youre going insist fees, but, just the case groups work for alone, they have cost tens thousands dollars staff and lawyer time through these administrative hurdles and now making sue response their deletory tactics.  And, fact, thats different than filing harassing litigation.  The costs are the same, the delays are the same, the impediment  the problems theyre seeking cause are just the same.   
After they continued denying our fee waiver request that they routinely grant green pressure groups, the basis that failed expressly  express intention broadly disseminate the information  and suggest humbly that one has more broadly disseminated more EPA related information the past year and half two.  Thats facially absurd claim and we, the way, stated expressly each request. then put the image chalkboard which wrote, Bart Simpson, times, intend broadly disseminate information request.  And, sure enough, they promptly denied the grounds that failed express intention broadly disseminate.  They dont even read our requests.  They just deny them put through the administrative wringer.   
This proved.  They cannot demonstrate they this with anyone else.  They have now  once the inspector general moved passed the initial inquiry stage  Congress pressured the OIG look into this  EPA then began denying our administrative appeals making sue every one.   
More the OIG, its going white wash.  Theyve decided randomly, they said, narrow their inquiry make sure that EPA didnt have answer hard questions.  That should sound familiar EPA watchers and EPA OIG watchers.  But EPA quite plainly disparately treating parties they dont believe deserve have access public information. Ill give you just brief lift some EPAs greatest hits and some others weve gotten from this most transparent administration ever. 
Worst tricks include, Treasury demanded several thousand dollars photocopy large number e-mails seeking discussions about carbon tax. told them that looked and stands for electronic. had asked for documents electronic form possible, therefore you dont actually stand front Xerox all day.  You put disc and dont charge us.  After that, the very large estimate response records plummeted.  And no, they didnt pursue that effort charge thousands dollars.   
EPA went the length photocopying e-mails requested electronic format from the private e-mail account used  theyre all doing there. found senior officials far  used their region two administrators Judith Enck, two-sided, affixing unrelated e-mail threads the backs others when they shouldnt bothering photocopying them all.  Id asked for them electronic format.  They were electronic records.  Just making mess out the production and making very difficult make heads tails out it.   
EPA refusing turn over e-mails between Richard Windsor and Minion Moore (ph), who you may have heard youve been reading the newspapers lately, withholding everyone their entirety, including two from date  only know from Vaughn Index that this was Minion Moore, both internal agency discussions.  Ms. Moore doesnt work for the agency, doesnt work for government, and attorney-client communications.  Neither are lawyers.  Its pretty brazen the lengths which theyll go. 
MR. FITTON:  Whos Richard Windsor? 
MR. HORNER:  Richard Windsor Lisa Jacksons false identity never before created for EPA administrator.  Every secondary e-mail account ever created, and they have been created, identify the party  Administrator Whitman, Administration Johnson the sent field. one has ever had  and, the way  and they had the title, address, telephone contact the bottom.  This was scrubbed that and had false identity. know that EPA  and theyve acknowledged this case filed  are wholesale.  They are destroying wholesale, every single one thousands Lisa Jacksons text messages and Gina McCarthys text messages.  When found out something about Gina McCarthys text messaging  and, the way, these are legally and distinct from e-mail.  Theyre the same thing.  But noticed that text transcript had ever been produced response Hill oversight request for all records all electronic records.  Wed never received one. asked around other active FOIA parties. one has ever received one. asked  found out about Ms. McCarthys texting. found out about three-year period, 3,952 text messages, texting like teenager but records.  Why?  Well, weve destroyed every one them.  Why?  Well, Ms. McCarthy says through counsel theyre personal. your EPA phone?  Yes.  All them, thousands, personal, yes.  Then got the metadata showing many EPA, known EPA signed cell phones.  Well, those were personal too.  Okay. some point, hope court going say, were going have look into this.  This not plausible.  When found out specific dates Lisa Jackson was texting, asked for those, records.  They were being permitted and are being permitting, and this continuing problem.  EPA has shown intention stop this practice.  Theyre allowing senior official destroy the agencys sole copy the equivalent e-mail.  You know EPA could not and would not proceed with any its rulemakings they admitted destroying all their e-mails.  And yet theyre doing with equivalent, class records.  Theyre refusing tell the national archives, the law requires, about the possible loss removal records through these various practices and on.   
And suppose Ill close noting theyre now forcing sue everything.  And none the requests noted the Washington Times front-page story today did the  that would identify Democratic organizations, none those were they forced sue.  And yet, now, EPA, every single time with us, now that the OIG has gone away and randomly narrowed its request, forcing sue every time. costing tens thousands dollars staff and counsel time.  Even they never provide bill, which proves too much, they owe bill which even then they refuse provide.   
MR. FITTON:  Well, thank you, Chris.  Mr. Epstein, welcome the party.  Cause Action relatively new.  Its not new anymore but you have greatly expanded our capacity get access information.  And were happy have other organizations out there doing this important work. our personal thanks for joining the cause.  But turn over you. 
DANIEL EPSTEIN:  Well, thank you, Tom.  You know, its actually funny because when started the oversight committee, worked the Ford House Office building, which the universal eyesore this area.  But within month, being oversight counsel, theres two 
names, especially when youre working for the Republicans, which did, which becomes apparent and almost worshipped every lawyer there, and thats Judicial Watch and Chris Horner. Im greatly humbled here. kind  this whole thesis the Obama administration being the most transparent history, think there ceiling and floor for looking that. think the floor quite simply, practice, you have FOIA officers and agencies that simply dont take FOIA seriously.  One the things that included the packet letter response FOIA request sent from the Department Homeland Security.  And that was dated March 11th, its relatively recent.   
And got two responses the same request.  The first response was letter that had optional boiler plate language guess that could choose determine what the response was.  And then, the second was just blank page.  And think that kind reflects the mentality this most transparent administration, which quite simply whether its because who Cause Action what believe its just simply the way that FOIA treated.  Its not the final analysis very serious enterprise for this administration.   
The second thing is, that ceiling, which how this administration think has been very intelligent how its been opaque.  And that something that  Im very grateful Mark, who wrote story about this yesterday, about something that organization discovered, which was this memo on, quote, White House equities.   
Now, you would ask me, what White House equities are, would have idea, and thats largely because Congress never defined what this was, agency has ever issued rules define what this is, but nevertheless, this administration uses this term review both requests and propose responses that come from Congress, the Government Accountability Office, judicial subpoenas and especially FOIA requesters. have investigated this policy, which want understand how many agencies have used this, how many FOIA requesters have had their request proposed responses sent the White House for review, because, quite simply, the worry that this administration not merely not being transparent but fact using FOIA political tool.   
And all the requests that have sent  and think right now have sent requests just trying understand how agencies interpret the term White House Equities and what they afforded the White House for review  virtually only four agencies have responded.  One agency redacted everything and the three agencies that have responded far have indicated least that the White House very much prepared keep things from the public, keep things, especially from Congress based off the political sensitivities involved. have already discovered that least the case EPA, saw that Darrell Issa and Senator Vitters requests were  when proposed production was made before our own Congress could get those records, lawyers the White House got those records and got review them and basically held them up, leading Congress actually subpoena for those records, which 
only say that the congressional function conducting oversight over the executive branch is, course, then destroyed that point.  Its really the president conducting oversight over his potential political enemies.   
And one the things that think really interesting for Cause Action continue look into this when was the oversight committee, were looking how could use the tools that someone like Henry Waxman used against the Bush administration and apply those the Obama administration.   
Well, Henry Waxman was very aggressive looking how the Bush administration had Office Political Affairs that alleged had completely politicized the federal agencies.  And yet, whats clear here you look the White House Counsels Office, appears that counsels inside the White House are assigned for certain set agencies.  Those agencies, while understand that you get certain politically sensitive FOIA requests congressional requests, you have contact for whom send those records and have them reviewed, which seems like Obama has, again, engaged charade. got rid the Office Political Affairs but then just politicized his White  House Counsels Office, which all the more severe because the White House Counsels Office can always claim privileged the communications has with agencies. think that this whole White House equities policy very much stark example how Obama has not just not been transparent but deeply harmed transparency.   
And, you know, would just close with kind one insight that think can gather from this, which have seen  you just Google the term White House equities, its been something thats been the language federal agencies for some time, least terms equities, right, privilege exemption agencies can claim that certain things are inter-agency and that would FOIA exemption.   
What the analysis is, that there are equities other agencies and that means they either have search for those records they can potentially claim exemption.  But one thing thats interesting here the extent which, you look back 2009, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, when was conducting hearing over the Department Homeland Security, which many you might remember had demoted FOIA officer because she wouldnt send documents review the politicals the agency.  And asked the chief FOIA officer, Mary Ellen Callahan, what were White House equities?  And back 2009, didnt seem get it.   
And the reality is, that this policy, which was smack the middle  actually followed the presidents own memo transparency and Eric Holders own memo transparency where said, when doubt, will not force requesters like Chris Horner and others bring lawsuits.  But its very clear that this memo that has had such enormous impact the way that agencies interpret FOIA and apply FOIA ultimately was something that was never produced publicly this administration.   
And think whats rather clear that much worse than just being opaque, this administration has actually been deleterious transparency and ultimately that will have long-term effects.  Thanks. 
MR. FITTON:  Thank you, Dan.  Mark Tapscott. 
MARK TAPSCOTT:  Thank you, sir.  Its really great pleasure here today because feel like, you know, the little kid standing with Mantle and Maris and Lou Gehrig here Freedom Information Act gang.  What these three gentlemen have achieved very relatively short period time think, the last five, six years, really remarkable terms changing the game, you will, about how the Freedom Information Act administered government. was reminded yesterday  when first saw the Cause Action report White House equities, instantly thought the Bush administrations invention out whole cloth new exemption the form sensitive but unclassified.  Its the exact same thing.  Its very vague sort reasonable sounding invention term that really puts everybody who seeking increase information the disadvantage because the only person who can  the only agency that can define what equity the final analysis, really the White House, what sensitive but unclassified is, course, the Department Defense. leaves government position having the choice whether not make something public.  And that, course, exactly the opposite the intent the Freedom Information Act, which says all documents are public unless they satisfy some very strictly defined exemptions.   
And thats the problem think, the fundamental problem the publics right know, transparency, accountability, all these issues that all us, regardless the political views that happen have  and look out the audience and know theres folks here who are very conservative and see some folks that think are very liberal.  Transparency one the few things that unites people believe good will regardless their political perspective, because you dont have transparency, you dont have accountability, and you dont have accountability, you dont have democracy.  And thats  the fundamental analysis, thats what were all about. its vital that all us, regardless where come from politically, concerned about these issues and working them. happen come both from the perspective before journalism career  was Reagan political appointee, came predisposed guess with idea what government should terms accountability.  But then, when became journalist, really began register with that, you know, the founders were not  they didnt just afterthought this thing called the First Amendment.  They understood you have have independent agency, independent institution hold people accountable and government accountable, something that doesnt depend upon election cycle order make that accountability effective.   
And thats why have new media. just have tremendous respect for Tom Fitton and Judicial Watch and Chris and Dan and what they do, enforcing standards accountability. 
have the same respect Danni OBrien (sp) Pogo (ph). think she does tremendous work thats very much important what these guys do.   
All have fundamental understanding think the critical importance maintaining accountability and transparency because ever lose that, then are really going trouble this country.  And when say that, say that not someone who looking black helicopters but somebody that said, wow, wonder the NSA heard that phone call that just made, you know.  Its not just fantasy anymore.  So, that happy note, Im going turn back over Tom. 
MR. FITTON:  Well, talk about your lawsuit that you filed.  That was your first Washington Examiner lawsuit not? 
MR. TAPSCOTT:  You filed lawsuit? really  its pretty simple.  The Congress set the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, laudable purpose help protect consumers from financial fraud.  Its great idea.  Theres other federal agencies already doing that but put that aside.  But Congress did something that unusual when they set CFPB.  They exempted from congressional oversight, all but from congressional oversight.  And that makes CFPB little different, think. one reporters, being the obnoxious type that is, started asking questions about why are you spending much money this renovation your headquarters?  And they wouldnt say. filed FOI and they still wouldnt say. appealed the FOI and they still wouldnt say.  And after, you know, eight months this runaround, which certainly wasnt new any  weve all experienced  called Tom, and said, Tom, take them court. thats what weve done.  Were just asking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tell the American people what are you doing with your money, the taxpayers money, that requires increase the cost this renovation. less than two years, its gone from million (dollars) 139 (million).  Actually, its lot more than that but thats what know far.  Just tell whats going on.  Thats all ask.  And have court get answer. 
MR. FITTON:  And this from agency that compiling data, credit card, credit report data millions Americans.  You know, makes the NSA seem like pikers terms the real privacy type protected material that this agency gathering Americans, your credit card data, whats your credit report.  And they dont want tell how much theyre spending renovating their headquarters.   
You know, this the age Obama transparency.  You know, fought the Bush administration the chagrin some conservatives and Republicans transparency issues, sent them all the way the Supreme Court.  And President Obama came and part won the election based the bad taste people had their mouths over President Bushs untoward secrecy.  Now, came and hes worse than Bush because not only taking more far out legal positions than President Bushs people did, who think fundamentally opposed Freedom 
Information Act law, administratively, Chris has talked about and Dan talking about with the White House involvement FOIAs, they played many more games. just even get basic information that you would normally get from any other administration, including the Bush administration, they dont even want turn that over. mean, cant tell you  have  just need sue just get answer.  Thats crazy under law.  And the Department Justice, which charged with enforcing the FOIA law and representing all these agencies court are the worst. the lawyers charged with enforcing the law are the biggest violators the law, can argued, when you ask the Justice Department for Freedom Information Act material. this real problem.   
And, say, Congress isnt really doing its  doing the work that needs do.  You know, they ask for records.  And its political process.  And even they wanted the work, its still political process. the records that come Congress are not always publicly available.  And sometimes, you know, Congress busy.  They dont know what do. mean, President Obama set lot fires the horizon.  Its hard tell which one run youre someone like Darrell Issa.   
And thats why its essential that there vibrant civil society outside government kind this policing that Judicial Watch, Cause Action, Chris Horner, CEI, and others are doing.  And the media has get back the ball again.  Its not all about the NSA. mean, the EPA has more control over our day-to-day lives than anything the NSA could dream of.  But theres skeptical  the media doesnt have enough skeptical reporters asking questions about what regulations are being promoted.  
Obamacare  the secrets Obamacare  still dont know how many people purchase insurance under Obamacare. still dont know that.  And yet, reporters unblinkingly cite figures presented the administration about people who signed for Obamacare under the website, which meaningless term.  Its that sort basic information that dont know.  And Congress isnt asking the questions either.  And its, frankly, us.  And thats why theres crisis because us, because didnt it, fear one would doing it. let  with that all being said, want talk about the EPA little bit more and the fight thats going here because this  this  this serious transparency issue.  Chris, mean, describe what the EPA into now and why the most egregious the violators, because the agencies all play their games, but, you know, the EPA doesnt seem used operating under Democratic system checks and balances.  Are they used getting Freedom Information Act requests just incompetence they changed their tune under Obama and they decided theyre just going shut down? 
MR. HORNER: think theyre very used getting these requests and theyre very  they have exceptions, supposed all fallible human beings.  They have they have their moments where they lapse but otherwise theyre very well schooled obstruction too.   
But sometimes its  sometimes the lies arent kept straight, and, noted, there are occasional times where theyre just stating outright falsehoods.  And then, sometimes, theyre just sloppy and lazy, for example, deciding this all have delay them for now, and that claim they didnt say something they actually said the course 600 words, including expressly, intend broadly disseminate this, even putting the mock chalk board and and they just  they obviously dont even read anymore.   
But will say its matter degree.  Now, Im going circle back something you said.  The oversight component extremely important, but view this public oversight.  You can view yourselves force multiplier your elected representatives and their legitimate oversight capacity because Congress gave the taxpayer  its one these rare instances where standing really never issue.  You make your request, you challenge the sufficiency the processing and you can sue.  Consider few examples. weve got with the Department Energy and the program that Solyndra made infamous, found out thats being executed separate private e-mail accounts, one them the guy running it, Jonathan Silver and his eponymous account, and then various others, and Congress wants them.  And DOE  and they the former employees.  And DOE throws itself between the former employees and the oversight body and says, wait minute, cant give those you. must give them because these are all presumptively agency records.   
Okay, thats very important want remember. becomes very inconvenient when you deal with other agencies like the White House Office Science and Technology Policy, whose director came from green pressure group, whose board directors whos who that movement.  And guess what?  Since hes been adviser the president, hes still been using their computer server for select correspondence, the one that severed relationships with, John Holdren, didnt. hes still using, find out the Richard Windsor case, his Woods Hole Research Center e-mail account. ask OSTP, have EPA with various other senior officials, wed like the work-related e-mail from this.  And the OSTP says, well, Im afraid thats not FOIA request because, you know, youre asking for records that arent White House server.  Theyre  theyre over there the Woods Hole Research Center, which has been unlawfully using throughout.   
Well, referred them DOE because DOE threw itself between the oversight body, essentially the public, and the former employee say, wait second.  These all have through us.  Well decide what and isnt.  And OSTP said  well, think what happened the OSTP Director Holdren told them pound sand.  Youre not going search account. the way, hes the guy who wrote something called the Holdren memo, which was when one his  one ours fell short, famously said their employees, chastising them about doing something later found out was doing all along, using private e-mail account conduct work-related correspondence. depends upon the agency and how brazen they want be.  And believe they all  and, Dan, you can speak this  since Fast and Furious, theyve decided that theyll challenge 
oversight, the use the gavel and the subpoena power, and theyre willing call your what they assume bluff.  They cant that easily with the private citizen but then, again, have very finite resources. what you have the magic  think the magic two words. between the subpoena and nothing the request for transcribed interview.  When that was done with the regional administrator who had filed affidavit saying EPA wasnt using private e-mail account, and then filed second affidavit saying, stand first affidavit, rarely used private e-mail account.  And then said  when they said, okay, wed like transcribed interview talk about this, quit, got lawyer and began turning over lot documents that previously didnt exit.   
Weve had regional administrator lie the Office Inspector General and on.  You ask them come for transcribed interview and you start get recovered memory closer the truth. the oversight function great  thats the third leg the stool, think. 
MR. FITTON:  Yeah.  Dan, talk little bit about congressional oversight since you have some experience there.  And guess, you know, you had easier time getting documents presume when you were Congress.  But, you know, now that youre relying the FOIA law, what additional tools would you recommend the federal legislature give Americans make FOIA work better and allow the executive branch less rocks hide underneath and behind? 
MR. EPSTEIN:  Yeah.  Absolutely. think, you know, one very clear thing empower FOIA have all these exemptions, which, least organization has found can often vague terms their application.  Even you get into litigation and can get privilege log anything like that, its still unclear what grounds these agencies can claim exemption. think Congress can definitely legislative fix there. think the other thing is, that its often think the role government accountability groups and watchdog groups really educate Congress and empower them. think its very clear that you look the Environment and Public Works the Senate, you look the House Oversight Committee, they are very responsive what Chris Horner doing, what CEI doing, what folks like Mark Tapscott and his reporters are doing. think they follow their lead. that something where its definitely doing lot legwork.  And even means that Congress kind acting secondary footnote that, because theres question that someone like Issa subpoenas, that puts the agencies very defensive position.   
And would say, the last thing also  you know, much can educate Congress ways that they can make their own legislation that touches transparency more muscular and effective.   
One thing would just point theres the GRANT Act, which  had left committee, hasnt gone the floor yet but this something where, you know, already think the thought behind the GRANT Act was want make federal discretionary spending more transparent.  But its also something where for FOIA advocates and transparency groups, Congress can always put the teeth give groups like standing bring challenges. you look federal discretionary spending right now, and this way which you look the stimulus, you look other types programs, especially Obamacare, Obama using this very much help his political allies, whether you call executive branch earmarks presidential quirk, that big issue.  And, ultimately, having citizen watchdog groups have the ability comment meaningfully those things and then hold the agencies accountable under either theory the Administrative Procedures Act some other theory, think could very useful.   
Im very much believer fire alarm oversight versus police patrol oversight, use the political science terms, but are the ones who understand how this and were the ones who can empower Congress better.   
MR. FITTON:  Mark, you reinvigorated the Examiner with investigative unit that, you know, think  many other much larger publications and national known news organizations would well emulate.  Why dont you boast little bit about that and talk about what separates your skeptical group reporters from the rest here Washington? 
MR. TAPSCOTT:  Thats quite question youve asked.  Before answer that, let just say one thing about what Daniel and Chris were just saying oversight. you into Government Oversight Committee room, one the portraits, one the most prominent portraits there white-haired gentleman with cigar his hand.  Thats Jack Brooks. was irascible, old, southern Democrat who ran that committee with iron fist and had three the best investigators that Ive ever known that worked for him.  And bureaucrats this town were scared death summoned appear before Jack Brooks.  Thats when congressional oversight meant something.  Look the Freedom Information Act today.  Nobody has ever gone jail for violating the FOI, least not that know of.  They were scared death Jack Brooks; theyre not scared the FOI.  Theres some importance that fact. just what journalists are supposed do.  And thats ask questions that people politics and government dont want answer.  That sounds perhaps little simplistic but really exactly what do.  There ongoing debate journalism circles about, well, what investigative reporting?   
All journalists are supposed investigative reporters.  And thats true.  You know, its just much important public obligation for the rookie journalists covering police beat small town the Midwest get the facts right for, you know, any reporter for the Washington Examiner the Washington Post the New York Times get the facts right.  Thats what were paid do.  Thats what were supposed ask questions that people dont want answer and report what they say, and there evidence suggest that what they said not the whole story, fill out and report the rest the story.   
And thats what do.  And, very frankly, dont know the political views reporters. frankly dont care.  What care about is, are they asking the questions?  Are they asking the follow-up questions, which often the most important one, and are they insisting answer?   
And Ive got one guy who tackled Eric Shinseki almost last week Capitol Hill and, God, you would think that had violated some kind civilizational (sp) norm. actually insisted the secretary Veterans Affairs answer question.  Weve got get beyond that. thats what the Examiners investigative reporters do. ask questions. 
MR. FITTON:  Well, thank you.  Well, Ill turn over the audience anyone has questions comments.  You identify yourself and wait for the mic theres mic.  Yes.  Sir. ahead.  Stand up. dont see mic you can ahead.  Ill repeat the question people cant hear.  Im  (inaudible)  myself.  Im wondering, there any  you guys have any sense the composition these policy offices?  Are they mainly career staffers are they political appointees?  Can you see difference the composition different policy  retired from federal service and our privacy office was all staff people and they gave  you know, eventually, think you sued old  one those  one those three-letter places the river.  And always thought they  because they had all the exemptions they claim all sorts great exemptions give stuff away. 
MR. FITTON: the question was about, for those you who didnt hear initially because the mic wasnt there, who works these FOIA offices?  Are they career civil servants?  Are they political appointees?  Dan, why dont you answer the question you can? 
MR. EPSTEIN: think its mixture both.  You typically have  mean, least from what weve seen, the assumption that most FOIA officers are staff theyre not political.  But often the case is, that general counsels, who are kind the chief compliance officers these agencies, are politicals (sp).  And you look the case least the Department Homeland Security, when they came before the House Oversight Committee, was very clear that their certain request just before productions were made had reviewed those political appointees often lawyers high the agencies who were sophisticated enough know which exemptions claim.  That may standard FOIA officer who produces blank page when sophisticated detail. 
MR. FITTON:  And just because theyre civil servants doesnt mean theyre not politically attuned anyone else, you know. asked for  was reminded  Nancy Pelosis travel records and, you know, the apolitical bureaucrats that the Department Defense were giving our heads the request.  So, you know, thats about political move you can get.  
MR. HORNER:  When was writing The Liberal War Transparency, which was about FOIA and has how the back, stayed the phone little longer with the people  the FOIA officers, just probing.  When they felt like talking, wanted learn more about precisely this.   
And one gentleman agency that has been mentioned today was discussing how recent years, during the current administration, they now have weekly meetings inform the general counsel every request that came and let him know about everything they wanted 
respond to, giving everybody heads know what they had manage publicly suppose. the case, suppose what Im about say, may indicate sit something.   
For example, with one request that were still court now with EPA over for some Sierra Club e-mails that have gotten some play lately, after while, spoke the career FOIA officer and she let out whats called excited utterance.  She gasped and said, oh, dear, this bad.  What that?  Well, Larry told  and forget her colleagues name  think its the record  not anymore work these and give them him.  Hed take care them. took care them. sat them.  And they made sue, and theyve been producing quite lot since, fees, nothing.  And she had  she had said, this odd.  This still technically mine, but this very bad. told not anymore work these.  Well, hes career  hes their national FOIA officer.   
Being career doesnt mean  doesnt tell you anything.  You can surmise from someone being career the career  what agency theyre in.  But doesnt tell you doesnt  doesnt insulate you from somebody saying, dont think this the kind information that the public least that these people, paraphrase the Washington Post about one our requests the University Virginia, should asking  should receiving.   
MR. FITTON:  Any questions comments, additional comments?  Yes.  Thank you.  Myron Ebell, CEI. wish youd spell this out just little bit more. think youve said this, but seems that the administration succeeding its strategy through delay.  They ignore time limits.  They say you have pay, then they make you appeal, then they make you file suit. you get subpoenaed  used previous administrations were scared just with the threat subpoena.  Theyd least pretend comply.  Now they dont even reply subpoenas from Congress. just seems that their strategy act secret working.  For example, the  the Richard Windsor e-mails had come out timely way, Lisa Jackson would have been deep trouble.   
MR. TAPSCOTT:  Why?  Theres penalty for it.  Because public opinion would have forced  her actions were  she got free ride for years and years because people didnt know the way she was actually conducting her office. 
MR. TAPSCOTT:  Myron, understand what youre saying and Im empathetic it.  But long there penalty for any federal official for violating the Freedom Information Act any the other statutes that require public access documents, there not much that you can hope for other than aggressive exposure the media raise the stakes, you will, about the political calculation that then has made gets exposed.  And thank God for all the groups this town that systematically and consistently try that.   
But, mean, just look all the things that  the Committee Natural Resources has sent over think subpoenas.  Every one them had been ignored, you know.  You guys 
 you know, oversight, its the same thing. really comes down the attitude that the press have experienced for long time.  You dont like it, sue me.  Thats the problem. 
MR. FITTON:  Yeah.  With the Air Force, theyve just  you know, have been instrumental uncovering documents about how much costs for the Obamas their unnecessary luxury vacations.  And, you know, got lot press from us. the Air Force just stopped answering our questions.  Weve had sue like almost half dozen times just the last few months just get them give information they were giving year ago.   
And today, its announced  (inaudible)  the headline that theres going press Mrs. Obamas plane when she goes unnecessary luxury vacation, educational one, China with her family.  Theres going press the plane with her because, quote, shes not giving any interviews dont need the media there.  And, course, theyre not answering how much costs.   
But let just say, you know, part this Congress fault, unsurprisingly. mean, back when Jack Brooks was congressman, you had appropriations bills and was real funding issue stake Congress didnt get what was asking.   
All Congress does now they fund these massive appropriation bills, you dont have these individual appropriations going forward where theres more accountability, theres budget put out there, and theres understanding that certain funding wont happen certain things arent done.  Nowadays, everything gets funded one lump sum, our entire government practically speaking keep  massive portions are funded sight unseen, sight unseen.  And when Congress gives the power the purse, after-the-fact subpoenas are going treated theyre now being treated the president  President Obama and his attorney general.   
Any other questions?  You know, let just say, you know, this  the problem with Obama though that its  hes not doing anything new.  Hes doing greater way.  You know, back during the Clinton years, the Clinton White House was monitoring Freedom Information Act requests.  And, you know, during the Bush years, the White House was heavily involved Freedom Information Act requests.   
And think with Dans, you know, exposing the actual  putting the memo shows that, you know, the problems that folks have been complaining about terms transparency many ways related government activity Washington, D.C., have metastasized under President Obama.  And thats why opening remarks talk about losing our ability govern ourselves.   
You know, and part transparency well seems telling the truth.  And your government officials are lying you, you know, thats not transparent.  And theyre unwilling tell you the truth about what theyre doing.   
And the case President Obamas most famous lie, you like your doctor, you can keep it, period, they discussed that internally the White House and they knew was not true, 
but they thought, politically, would not appropriate for their point view put any copy out today. the Benghazi lie, thats not transparent.  Forget about not turning over any documents but thats  lying not transparent.  And so, you know, when they  the double standard the media has towards  you know, you would think that President Nixon still threat, even though hes dead, you know, years, towards this administrations lies.  Forget about not turning over documents; the lies much threat transparent government and the unlawful secret government any refusal not turn over documents.   
MR. HORNER: respond that, its  lets say even were only matter degree, what degree.  Okay, lets say that the Bush administration they were using private e-mail accounts, false identities and destroying all their text messages, moving over text for their sultry discussions, their more candid discussions because they knew one was searching them because they could destroy them.  Right now, thats just talking point because get see that anybody else ever did what everybody supposedly does.   
But this was invitation.  This was not offhand remark. was scripted. was clearly poll tested.  But came after the election. came after the inauguration. led memo the heads all agencies, attorney general memos. was like the invitation look whats going Spain. you want see what had store for the economy.  And when some Spanish academic said, (in Spanish), sent his Department Energy  Cathy Zoi the way, was using her Gore pressure group e-mail account while she was government apparently  sent them through her office after the Spanish academics who responded his invitation tell how Spain was going. invited look further, look more. took him it. did you. all did.  And wasnt just that they were  and then they were worse, the numbers show.  They invited us, come see what there is.  They didnt just say, you, not you, you and come ask for Bush documents but not things that embarrass our  the places where move government offline. was the numbers show materially substantially worse.  even its just degree, what degree. 
MR. FITTON:  Dont believe us.  Believe the Associated Press, who has major analysis piece out this week highlighting that the presidents agencies are asserting record numbers secrecy exemptions response requests for information about what the government to.  So, said, never before has much money been spent with little oversight. 
Dan, you have any closing remarks? 
MR. EPSTEIN:  (off mic)  everything.  
MR. FITTON:  How folks find out more about Cause Action? 
MR. EPSTEIN:  Check out posted report, our second  (off mic)  government report just how transparent this administration our website. 
MR. FITTON:  Thank you.  And Mark Tapscott? 
MR. TAPSCOTT: and especially the watchdog landing page.  And please tell how wonderful you think all our reporting is. 
MR. FITTON:  Thank you.  And Mr. Horner, they can find you all over the place but where the best place find you? 
MR. FITTON:  And, course, its appreciate everyone coming out today and those you the Internet viewing well.  And, eventually, well put this all YouTube and transcripts will available. appreciate your attendance here today.  Thank you.  (Applause.)