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Judicial Watch • Testimony FOIA Tom Fitton Judicial Watch

Testimony FOIA Tom Fitton Judicial Watch

Testimony FOIA Tom Fitton Judicial Watch

Page 1: Testimony FOIA Tom Fitton Judicial Watch


Number of Pages:11

Date Created:June 5, 2015

Date Uploaded to the Library:June 05, 2015

Tags:TestimonyFOIA0528151, KERRY, Administration, al Qaeda, Freedom, hillary, Congress, justice, government, Benghazi, president, Secretary, Hillary Clinton, clinton, Obama, White House, federal, State Department, American, records, department, FOIA, IRS

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Opening Statement
Tom Fitton, President
Judicial Watch
Hearing the House Committee Oversight and
Government Reform
Ensuring Transparency through the Freedom Information
Act (FOIA), Part
June 2015
2154 Rayburn House Office Building
Good morning, 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
Judicial Watch is, without doubt, the most active Freedom
Information Act (FOIA) requestor and litigator operating
today. Thank you, Chairman Chaffetz and Congressman
Cummings for allowing testify this important topic.
Judicial Watch used the open records laws root out
corruption the Clinton administration and take the
Bush administrations penchant for improper secrecy. Founded 1994, Judicial Watch has over 21years experience using
FOIA advance the public interest.
Our government bigger than ever, and also the most
secretive recent memory. President Obama promised the
most transparent administration history, but federal agencies
are often black holes terms disclosure. previously
testified about this president remarkable assertions secrecy
over White House visitor logs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
documents, and even the photos the dead Osama bin Laden.
(The administration asserted secrecy over the photos
not upset Qaeda!) have filed nearly 3,000 FOIA requests with the Obama
administration, and our staff attorneys have been forced file
nearly 225 FOIA lawsuits federal court against this
administration. Most these lawsuits are filed just get
yes answer from the administration. Administratively,
agencies have built additional hurdles and stonewalled even
the most basic FOIA requests. The Obama administration
casual law-breaking when comes FOIA national
disgrace and shows contempt for the American people right know what their government doing.
Both the left and right agree that, major transparency issues,
the Obama administration has come down the side
The Founding Fathers took transparency seriously.
James Madison wrote, popular government without popular
information, the means acquiring it, but prologue
Farce Tragedy, perhaps both. Unfortunately,
both tragedy and farce today but Thomas Jefferson
said, are guard against ignorance and remain free, the responsibility every American informed.
Transparency about self-government. don know what
the government doing, how that self-government?
Frankly, how that even republic?
Congressional oversight sorely lacking lacking all
fronts. Congress like fire department that shows after
your house burns down and shouts fire. Even President
Obama, flailing for excuse over his IRS massive
oppression his political opponents, suggested that the
government was too big and had way effectively
monitoring his own agencies.
And, too often, the fourth 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 whims the executive
branch and have applied FOIA way that makes 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
Never our history has much money been spent with
little accountability. Frankly, all Congress should focus
government reform and oversight, instead assigning
one two committees.
Americans are rightly worried they are losing their country. have the forms democracy elections, campaigns,
votes, political fundraising, etc. but when Congress
authorizes $1.5 trillion spending after just three days
debate, and when the executive branch won tell you much
unless you willing make federal court case out
issue, that isn democracy, and isn self-government.
But there way forward out the transparency and
corruption crisis. Judicial Watch shows that one citizen group,
using the Freedom Information Act and independent
oversight, can help the American people bring their
government back down earth and under control.
Judicial Watch has succeeded uncovering documents that
had been denied Congress. Benghazi, has been little over year since Judicial
Watch uncovered newly declassified email showing thenWhite House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben
Rhodes and other Obama administration public relations
officials, not intelligence officials, putting out the lie that the
Benghazi attack was rooted Internet video, and not
failure policy. These documents had been withheld from
Congress and half-dozen congressional committees had
been made look foolish. direct result this disclosure,
Speaker Boehner reversed his opposition Select
Committee Benghazi.
The Select Committee, now run Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC),
doesn seem succeeding, put charitably, getting
answers accountability. And Judicial Watch continues
the go-to source Benghazi facts continue uncover
revelation after revelation about the Benghazi terrorist attack.
These revelations have not come easily and have only occurred
through multiple federal lawsuits and court orders requiring the
administration comply with FOIA. Our document
disclosures have led questions about criminal violations
obstruction and perjury laws top officials this
With respect the IRS scandal, Judicial Watch litigation
forced the agency admit that Lois Lerner emails were
supposedly lost. And was Judicial Watch FOIA litigation
that forced the IRS admit that her emails were not actually
necessarily lost. Only Judicial Watch uncovered the troubling
revelation that the Obama IRS and Justice Department were
collaborating prosecuting the same groups that the IRS had
lawlessly suppressed. Again, Congress has seemed have
lost interest the IRS scandal, but continues the job oversight and remains the key vehicle for revelations about
the continuing abuse the IRS.
And then have perhaps one the most egregious violations federal transparency law since FOIA was passed nearly
years ago. March 2015, The New York Times reported thenSecretary Clinton used least one non- email
account conduct official government business during her
entire tenure the secretary state.
There are least lawsuits, which are active federal
court, and about 160 Judicial Watch Freedom Information
Act (FOIA) requests that could affected Mrs. Clinton and
her staff use secret email accounts conduct official
government business. can tell you that dismissed several
lawsuits based lies the State Department that searched
all Hillary Clinton emails and couldn find anything
relevant our requests. Judicial Watch various FOIA
lawsuits, our lawyers have informed attorneys for the Obama
administration that Hillary Clinton and any other secret
accounts used State employees should secured,
recovered and searched. Judicial Watch litigation against the
State Department has already exposed key documents about
both the Benghazi (as discussed above) and Clinton
cash scandals.
Indeed, with Lois Lerner emails, our litigation forced the
State Department publicly disclose Hillary Clinton secret
email accounts. recent federal court filing point out: November 12, 2014, the State Department released its
production responsive, non-exempt, records that
Judicial Watch understood complete. its letter,
the Department stated that located four (4) documents result its search the Office the Secretary
December 2014, the State Department produced its
draft Vaughn index pursuant the Court September 15,
2014 Order both instances, the State Department
omitted that its search did not include Secretary Clinton
emails the Office the Secretary. More egregiously,
the State Department omitted that Secretary Clinton had
apparently just turned over 55,000 pages her agency
emails that had not been searched included the
Department draft Vaughn index These omissions are
material and were apparently made the process
settlement discussions induce dismissal. supplemental search and document production due
April 2015 solely because Judicial Watch requested
search affidavits, surprised that that the State Department
located only four responsive records none which are
Secretary Clinton emails and all which were
previously produced another litigation Judicial
Watch has reason believe that the State Department
would have ever disclosed that its search was
compromised had Judicial Watch not asked for search
affidavits when reviewed the draft Vaughn index and
limited production. statement the State Department February 2015,
status report was the first notice the public and the court that
other records had not been searched: [The State Department]
has discovered that additional searches for documents
potentially responsive the FOIA must conducted.
The State Department early response the scandal has not
been encouraging. While new records will searched
response future FOIA requests, there are plans back
and review the accuracy what has already been produced
response FOIA, Marie Harf, State Department
spokeswoman has said.
The State Department obligated secure the accounts
soon possible protect classified materials, retrieve any
lost data, protect other federal records, and search records
required court orders our various FOIA lawsuits, and
response congressional subpoenas, etc.
Rather than allowing Hillary Clinton campaign advisers
review email and release material the government, the
agency should assert its ownership, secure the material and
prohibit private parties from illicitly reviewing potentially
classified and other sensitive material.
This the basis for new federal lawsuit, filed last week,
against Secretary State John Kerry. Kerry predecessor
the State Department, former-Secretary Clinton, conducted
official government business using secret, unsecured email
server and email accounts. Her top aides and advisors also used
non- email accounts conduct official business. 2014, Clinton unilaterally determined which her emails
were official government records and, December 2014,
returned least portion these public records many
55,000 pages records the State Department. the lawsuit, Judicial Watch argues the following:
The Clinton emails are agency records subject the
[Federal Records Act (FRA)] and the State Department
failure retain, manage, and search these agency records
has compromised the Department retention records
that concern relate Secretary Clinton and other high
level State Department officials who used non email addresses.
The Federal Records Act stipulates:
Agencies may only dispose records terms approved the Archivist the United States, who head the
National Archives and Records Administration NARA This process the exclusive procedure
which all federal records may disposed
The FRA imposes direct responsibility agency head
take steps recover any records unlawfully removed. April 30, 2015, Judicial Watch sent letter Kerry
notifying him the unlawful removal the Clinton emails
and requesting that initiate enforcement action pursuant
the FRA, including working through the attorney general
recover the emails.
Patrick Kennedy, under secretary state for management,
responded Secretary Kerry behalf May 14. The letter
ignored Judicial Watch demands that the secretary comply
with the FRA.
Kerry actions represent abuse discretion that has led the continued withholding official government records
from the American people. clear, Mrs. Clinton actions, and maybe the actions
other administration officials, require serious and
independent criminal investigation.
The courts are taking notice. Last month, federal court judge
did something had never seen before U.S. District Court
Judge Reggie Walton reopened Judicial Watch Freedom Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit because the new
evidence Hillary Clinton hidden emails. the meantime, Judicial Watch filed eight lawsuits (including
six one day) against the Obama administration get
answers the Hillary Clinton email scandal.
Many, including members both parties Congress, ask how that Judicial Watch gets documents that Congress can get
even under subpoena.
The easy answer that FOIA straightforward tool that
quickly gives JW, other media, and citizens access the
federal courts order ensure compliance with lawful
records requests.
Congressional investigations, even with subpoenas, are
political nature and require, under the current practice,
effective enforcement court with the cooperation
politicized Justice Department.
The Fast and Furious scandal perfect example. Eric
Holder was charged with contempt Congress, and President
Obama made remarkable assertion executive privilege
protect his attorney general and thwart Congress. Rather than
enforce the contempt charge, the Justice Department ignored it.
Only after Judicial Watch secured key court victories
separately against the Justice Department did Congress, after
two years getting nowhere, get many the documents
had been seeking. course, the administration were transparent all this
wouldn matter. Truth fears inquiry. Crafty, corrupt
politicians realize that transparency and accountability
hand-in-hand. the Obama administration truly had nothing
hide, would not such extraordinary lengths keep
information from the public. commitment transparency must cut across partisan lines. are please see renewed congressional interest
reforming FOIA. only ask that such reforms significant
and provide more access information the American
people. And speaking FOIA reform, Congress should apply
the freedom information concept itself and the courts, the
two branches the federal government exempt from the
transparency laws that presidents must follow.
Founding Father John Adams was keenly aware the
relationship between secrecy and corruption --- and the
preservation liberty:
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.