Obama Just Officially Decided White House Emails Aren’t Subject to the Freedom of Information Act

<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrismar/3780790125/in/photolist-6L6xbD-9ranL3-6ha7oQ-cDzcLh-ngN63V-4fk8fV-cF6ZZy-9GeSHV-5L6eTK-5vNbG8-9pNQjS-8oXzNh-5SHJgg-cDzchw-cDzdv7-bfJctT-cF71dy-nYYeLR-cDz89Y-dtpe2z-6Awh6m-cF71VQ-cDzdRq-cDAdbQ-cDAcVG-cDAaVd-8BcQno-bY3AUW-6GCn3N-4kR3yn-cDzd8W-cDAezq-9z1tj5-78bXi6-5Tm92g-nfN3r5-cDzexY-828pqh-eB1zNa-8BcQpo-8LcFS8-aws9ax-cDz8nQ-cDAbbN-cDAcEN-4H1B1P-9a3hzW-6ffeD8-9RMhbf-mLajCz">Chris Martino</a>/Flickr

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Civil liberties advocates are adding another strike to the Obama administration’s record on transparency: on Monday, the White House announced that it is officially ending the Freedom of Information Act obligations of its Office of Administration. That office provides broad administrative support to the White House—including the archiving of emails—and had been subject to FOIA for much of its nearly four-decade history.

In 2007, the George W. Bush administration decided that its OA would reject any FOIA requests, freeing it from the burden to release emails regarding any number of Bush-era scandals. When President Obama took office in 2009, transparency advocates were hopeful that he’d strike down the Bush policy—especially after he claimed transparency would be a “touchstone” of his presidency. In a letter that year, advocates from dozens of organizations urged Obama to restore transparency to the OA.

He never did, and Monday’s move from the White House makes the long-standing policy official. Coincidentally, March 16th was Freedom of Information Day, and this week marks the annual Sunshine Week, which focuses on open government. 


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend