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Obama administration using security concerns to hold back public information

Published March 12, 2013 2:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When President Barack Obama took office, open-government advocates were hopeful his administration would be more transparent than his predecessor's.

While Obama did restore the presumption of openness in public records, reversing former Attorney General John Ashcroft's directive to deny records requests if there was even the slightest way to legally do so, his administration hasn't been as forthcoming as some would like.

As The First Amendment Center reports, an Associated Press analysis shows that his administration denied about one-third of the requests it received in 2012, a slight increase over 2011′s denial rate. One of the more common reasons for denying records or censoring them was national security issues.

The AP study noted it could not determine if the administration was abusing the national-security exemption in the federal Freedom of Information Act or if people were asking for more security-related documents, such as policies on the use of unmanned drones against American citizens overseas.

The AP did find that Obama's administration was making more use of the "deliberative process" exemption, which allows government to hold back documents related to the behind-the-scenes decision-making process.