Senate Testimony 031511
Number of Pages:5
Date Created:March 18, 2011
Date Uploaded to the Library:February 20, 2014
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Opening Statement Tom Fitton, President Judicial Watch The Freedom Information Act: Ensuring Transparency and Accountability the Digital Age Hearing the U.S. Senates Committee the Judiciary March 15, 2011, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building Good morning, Im Tom Fitton, President Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch conservative, non-partisan educational foundation dedicated promoting transparency, accountability and integrity government, politics and the law. are the nations largest and most effective government watchdog group. Thank you, Chairman Leahy and Sen. Grassley for hosting this hearing. honor for me, behalf Judicial Watch, appear before this committee. want take some time extend personal thanks you, Chairman Leahy, and you, Senator Grassley, for not only your leadership government transparency but your often unheralded work behalf government whistleblowers. You helped least one our clients many years ago, and Im sure youve helped many other whistleblowers over the years. These brave folk are often alone their efforts expose government wrongdoing, your help crucial saving jobs and careers. Essential Judicial Watchs anti-corruption and transparency mission the Freedom Information Act (FOIA). Judicial Watch used this tool effectively root out corruption the Clinton administration and take the Bush administrations penchant for improper secrecy. Founded 1994, Judicial Watch has nearly years experience using FOIA advance the public interest. Judicial Watch is, without doubt, the most active FOIA requestor and litigator operating today. The American people were promised new era transparency with the Obama administration. Unfortunately, this promise has not been kept. clear: the Obama administration less transparent that the Bush administration. have filed over 325 FOIA requests with the Obama administration. And have filed FOIA lawsuits federal court against this administration. Administratively, agencies built additional hurdles and stonewalled even the most basic FOIA requests. The Bush administration was tough and tricky, but the Obama administration tougher and trickier. And once were forced federal court, the Obama administration continues fight tooth and nail. The Obama administrations litigious approach FOIA exactly the same the Bush administrations one can imagine the difficulties encounter litigating these issues court against the Obama Justice Department. Judicial Watch has been digging hard into the scandals behind the collapse Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their role helping trigger the global financial and related housing crises. key component this investigation involves the role political corruption played the failure adequate congressional oversight and the catastrophic collapse these "government-sponsored enterprises" 2008. That why filed Freedom Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc. U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency, USDC Case No. 9-1537;http://www.judicialwatch.org /judicial-watch-v-u-s-federal-housing-finance-agency) against the Obama administration get hold documents related Fannie's and Freddie's campaign contributions over the last several election cycles. Since American taxpayers are the hook for trillions dollars, potentially including already $153 billion alone for Fannie and Freddie, deserve know how and why this financial collapse occurred and who Washington, D.C., responsible. Unfortunately the Obama administration disagrees. Last year, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the agency responsible for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, responded our FOIA lawsuit telling that all the documents seek are not subject FOIA. Here the exact language the Obama agency used its court filing (http://www.judicialwatch.org/files/documents/2010/jw-v-fhfa-defmem4sj-01292010.pdf): ...Any records created held the custody the Enterprises (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) reflecting their political campaign contributions policies, stipulations and requirements concerning campaign contributions necessarily are private corporate documents. They are not agency records subject disclosure under FOIA. And here why the Obama administrations reasoning flat-out wrong, detailed court motion (http://www.judicialwatch.org/files/documents/2010/jw-fhfa-opp2sj-cm4sj-03052010.pdf) our lawyers filed response (on March 2010): issue this Freedom Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit whether FHFA, the federal agency that has custody and control the records Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Company (Freddie Mac), must comply with FOIA request for records relating those previously independent entities. Until they were seized FHFA September 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were private corporations with independent directors, officers, and shareholders. Since that time, FHFA, federal agency subject FOIA, has assumed full legal custody and control the records these previously independent entities. Hence, these records are subject FOIA like any other agency records. addition the problem walling off FHFAs control our nations mortgage market through Fannie and Freddie from public accountability, the Obama Treasury Department has been seemingly incapable disclosing even basic information the various government bailouts. cant quite fathom how this administration can laud new era transparency, while over trillion government spending shielded from practical oversight and scrutiny the American people. This Committee might also interested learn about the truth behind the Obama White Houses repeated trumpeting the release Secret Service White House visitor logs. fact, the Obama administration refusing release tens thousands visitor logs and insists, repeating Bush administration last-ditch legal position that the visitor logs are not subject the Freedom Information Act. while the Obama administration attempts take the high ground the debate releasing select number visitor logs, shields tens thousands other records that continue withheld defiance FOIA law. Why release some and not all? the fall 2009, Judicial Watch staff visited with senior White House official Norm Eisen, then-Special Counsel the President for Ethics and Government, discuss Judicial Watch's pursuit the White House visitor logs. The White House encouraged publicly praise the Obama administration's commitment transparency, saying would good for them and good for us. However, the Obama team refused abandon their legally indefensible contention that Secret Service White House visitor logs are not subject disclosure under FOIA law. filed lawsuit ask the court enforce the law. with Fannie and Freddie, the Obama administration continues advance its ridiculous and bogus claim that the visitor logs are not agency records subject the FOIA. But the Obama administration doesn't have legal leg stand on. noted our original complaint (Judicial Watch, Inc. United States Secret Service, USDC Case No. 9-2312; http://www.judicialwatch.org/files/documents/2009/jw-v-usss-complaint-12072009.pdf) filed December 2009, the administration's claim has been litigated and rejected repeatedly the courts. fact, has been rejected every court that has considered it. date, every court that has reached this issue has concluded that the White House Secret Service visitor logs are agency records and must processed response properly submitted FOIA request. Our brief also notes that the Secret Service had released White House visitor logs response previous FOIA requests (http://www.judicialwatch.org/judicial-watch-v-u-s-secret-service) from Judicial Watch and other parties. And now know from published reports that White House officials have been meeting with lobbyists and interests nearby Caribou Coffee shop across the street anonymous conference center specifically prevent disclosure visitors who might otherwise have their names disclosed result visiting the White House complex itself. major issue after major issue, FOIA ignored this administration. Many have been reading the news about the astonishing 1,000 Obamacare waivers issued the Department Health and Human Services. Judicial Watch first began asking for documents about this issue last October. sued January. (Judicial Watch, Inc. Department Health Human Services, USDC Case No. 10-2328; http://www.judicialwatch.org/files/documents/2010/jw-v-hhs-complaint-12302010.pdf.) Five months after our initial request, not have one document about these highly controversial waivers. Given the obvious public interest this matter, this stonewall seems nothing more than arrogant lawlessness. final example the Department Homeland Securitys handling report detailing the agencys investigation illegal alien, Carlos Martinelly-Montano, who charged with killing Virginia nun drunken driving accident August 2010. asked for that report, was rebuffed, and sued last year. (Judicial Watch, Inc. U.S. Department Homeland Security, USDC Case No. 10-2054;http://www.judicial watch.org/files/documents/2010/jw-v-dhs-complaint-12022010.pdf.) The administration told the court that they would release this final report late January. And then, when their own self-imposed deadline came, were told the final report was actually draft and they would not disclose it. The final report, (and the court were told), was still being worked on. Well, received that final report last week. was dated November 24, 2010. Yet had been told recently last month that was still being edited! This gamesmanship and trifling with the courts beyond the pale for administration supposedly devoted unprecedented transparency. major transparency issues, the Obama administration has come down the side secrecy. The Obama administrations releasing high value data sets from government bureaucracies meaningless the face key decisions keep politically explosive material out the public domain. far Judicial Watch concerned, the Obama administration gets failing grade transparency. Let end noting that commitment transparency should cut across partisan and ideological lines. The Founding Fathers understood the importance knowing what our government to. John Adams wrote: Liberty cannot preserved without general knowledge among the people, who have right, from the frame their nature, knowledge, their great Creator, who does nothing vain, has given them understandings, and desire know; but besides this, they have right, indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right that most dreaded and envied kind knowledge; mean, the characters and conduct their rulers. Thank you.