According to reports the Obama’s administrations top official dealing strictly with transparency affairs and information requests will soon be resigning his position – just 9 months after taking office.
His name is James Holzer and he has served as the Director of the Office of Government Information Services since last October. The primary functions of this office are to investigate the conduct of federal agencies under their jurisdiction as well as processes applications from the general public relating to requests for information on federal offices, agencies and government affairs.
More specifically the office deals with requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1967, “a law that gives you [citizens] the right to access information from the federal government.” With the exception of classified information, national secrets, personal records and several other exemptions this law “requires agencies to proactively post online certain categories of information, including frequently requested records.”
Ever since President Obama promised to have the most transparent administration in United States history, in 2009, this office has received an unprecedented number of requests from the public – up approximately 24.7% from the Bush administration.
Although citizens have the right to request information, the government simultaneously has the right to withhold that information. If a request is declined the citizens then have the right to file a lawsuit against the federal government to obtain this information. If accepted by a court the case goes to trial where a judge then determines if the request should be granted or dismissed.
According to statistics, in 2015 alone, Mr. Holzer’s office set an all time record with 498 FOIA lawsuits filed against them– up 54% from the time President Obama took office in 2009. This is also the reason many speculate that he is resigning his position, a discontent with the lack of transparency provided by the office.
Recent stats point out that since Holzer took over, 77% of requests to his office have either been censored or returned to the requester with no information as to why it was declined. Officials at the White House were surprised upon hearing about his resignation going on to say that “It’s difficult to imagine that he wasn’t asked for at least a one-year commitment in order to take such a position so it’s remarkable his tenure lasted no more than nine months.” Adding that Holzer continued the offices “superior work during the last nine months.”
This is the second top aid to resign within recent months. On March 29, 2016 The chief privacy and civil liberties advisor the NSA also abruptly resigned from his duty. Similarly to Holzer it is suggested that David Medine, chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, resigned due to a lack of progress and impact associated with his position.
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