The Freedom Of Information And Our Government

Jun 13, 2018

With David Folkenflik

The flow of information to the public in the Age of Trump. What do we know about what the government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars?


Solomon Lartey, worked for over 29 years as a records management analyst at the White House’s Office of Records Management.

Dr. Gretchen Goldman, Research Director, Center for Science & Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. (@GretchenTG)

Anne Weismann, Chief Counsel for Freedom of Information Act matters at the non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Alex Howard, writer and open government advocate. Former Deputy Director at the Sunlight Foundation. (@digiphile)

From The Reading List

Politico: Meet the guys who tape Trump’s papers back together — “Solomon Lartey spent the first five months of the Trump administration working in the Old Executive Office Building, standing over a desk with scraps of paper spread out in front of him. Lartey, who earned an annual salary of $65,969 as a records management analyst, was a career government official with close to 30 years under his belt. But he had never seen anything like this in any previous administration he had worked for. He had never had to tape the president’s papers back together again.”

The New York Times: In the Trump Administration, Science Is Unwelcome. So Is Advice. — “There is no chief scientist at the State Department, where science is central to foreign policy matters such as cybersecurity and global warming. Nor is there a chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture: Mr. Trump last year nominated Sam Clovis, a former talk-show host with no scientific background, to the position, but he withdrew his name and no new nomination has been made.

These and other decisions have consequences for public health and safety and the economy. Both the Interior Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have disbanded climate science advisory committees. The Food and Drug Administration disbanded its Food Advisory Committee, which provided guidance on food safety.”

FOIA Project: FOIA Lawsuits Surge in Trump Administration’s First Year — “Since the new administration took office at the end of January 2017, there has been a sharp jump in the number of lawsuits filed by individuals and organizations seeking court orders to obtain federal government records. Suits brought by the news media and nonprofit advocacy organizations have fueled a significant part of this rise. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), requesters can file suit when information they are seeking is withheld and they have exhausted administrative appeals, or when the agency fails to even respond in a timely manner.

Lawsuits this past fiscal year rose an astonishing 26 percent, and are continuing to climb. FOIA court cases are now up over 70 percent from just five years ago.”

President Trump’s rhetoric has been hostile to the press – and that’s no secret. Less well known are the tangible restrictions that many administration officials have placed on the flow of information to the public – often including details about what they’re doing in our name, and with our tax dollars. That’s not a partisan interest. That helps us assess how well our government is performing – regardless of who’s in office.

This hour, On Point: Transparency in the era of Trump.

– David Folkenflik

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