Read the full story: National Review
At the Treasury Department, the memo came down from the deputy executive secretary, Wally Adeyemo, in December of 2009. Going forward, the memo stated, “sensitive information” requested under the Freedom of Information Act was to be reviewed not only by career FOIA officials but also by a committee of political appointees, including Adeyemo and representatives from the public-affairs, legislative-affairs, and general counsel’s office, before release. What followed was an unusual review of Treasury FOIA requests by high-ranking political officials. And it didn’t just happen at Treasury, but at the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security, too. Current and former FOIA attorneys at these agencies say documents requested by the media have come in for special scrutiny, called “sensitive review,” often holding up release for weeks or months. At times, these officials say, political officials delayed the production of documents for political convenience. The policy runs counter not just to the spirit and the letter of the Obama administration’s pledge to unprecedented transparency, but also to the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act itself….
The Treasury Department is not alone in its use of the sensitive-review process. Internal documents suggest that the IRS (part of Treasury, but with its own policies), the Department of Homeland Security, and a number of other agencies have, to varying degrees, implemented similar procedures. At the IRS, for instance, when the legal watchdog group Cause of Action sued in 2012 to secure the release of documents under FOIA, it set off a spate of e-mails within the agency about whether the request had been subject to sensitive review. On October 12, John Davis, the agency’s chief of disclosure, wrote to Valerie Barta, a tax-law specialist, of Cause of Action’s original FOIA request: “This case we closed out in May of this year is coming back to haunt us. Gary wants to know why this was not on a sensitive case report. Can you pull this case and if you can tell why Susan didn’t put this on a sensitive case report?”