Obama admin. spent $36mn on legal costs to keep files secret: Report
The administration of former president Barack Obama spent a record $36.2 million on legal costs in its final year in office trying to keep government files secret, despite a pledge to be the most transparent government in history, according to a new report.
New US government data analyzed by the Associated Press showed that the Obama administration faced over 788,000 requests for classified documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
However, in 77 percent of the cases, the organizations and individuals that filed lawsuits ended up with only censored files or nothing at all in 2016. That figure stood at 65 percent in the first year of Obama’s presidency.
Federal employees also set a record in the number of times they told citizens, journalists and others that they could not find a single page of the requested documents.
Of the $36.2 million spent on legal battles last year, the Justice Department accounted for $12 million, followed by the Homeland Security Department with $6.3 million and the Pentagon that spent $4.8 million.
The three departments together received more than half of all FOIA requests for information.
The data also indicated poor performance in other measures of government transparency.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama promised to oversee the most transparent and accountable administration in US history.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, federal agencies are required to turn over any requested files unless the disclosure is deemed a threat to national security or personal privacy.
In 2013, a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists censured the Obama administration for failing to deliver on its transparency promises.
“Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press,” the report said.
The former administration was also under heavy criticism for aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information as well as its sweeping surveillance programs.