Why Isn’t the Department of Homeland Security Meeting the President’s Standard on FOIA?

Hearing Date: March 31, 2011 12:00 am

Chairman Issa Hearing Preview Statement

Thursday’s hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, entitled “Why Isn’t the Department of Homeland Security Meeting the President’s Standard on FOIA,” will assess the disparity between DHS non-compliance with FOIA provisions and the Administration’s stated goals of openness and transparency.

On his first full day in office, President Obama outlined the critical role that FOIA plays in ensuring an open government.  Moreover, Attorney General Eric Holder produced FOIA implementation guidelines based on a presumption of disclosure and designed to protect the American public from the politicization of transparency.

Now two full years into the Obama administration, Congressional investigators have uncovered evidence that career FOIA professionals at DHS have been compromised in their statutory compliance by the intrusion of DHS political staff into the department’s FOIA procedures.

Through the course of an eight-month investigation, the Committee has learned that political staff under DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano have corrupted the agency’s FOIA compliance procedures, exerted unlawful political pressure on FOIA compliance officers, and undermined the federal government’s accountability to the American people.  These events have nurtured a fragile – and at times hostile – work environment that does not serve to fulfill the department’s primary mission to secure the nation from

A vast chasm has opened between assurances of transparency and accountability made by President Obama before and since his inauguration two years ago.  It is the mission of the Oversight Committee to secure the American people’s right to know about how their government operates.  This hearing is at the heart of the Oversight Committee’s solemn responsibility to hold government accountable to taxpayers and bring genuine reform to the federal bureaucracy.

Witnesses and testimonies

Name Title Organization Panel Document
Mary Ellen Callahan Chief Privacy Officer Department of Homeland Security Panel 1 Document
Ivan Fong General Counsel Department of Homeland Security Document
Charles Edwards Acting Inspector General Department of Homeland Security Panel 2 Document
John Verdi Senior Counsel, Director of Open Government Project Electronic Privacy Information Center Document