Smells Like Rain – Herald Tribune

0
167
Power Quadrant


Created by Congress during the Bush II administration, the Office of Government Information Services was designed to placate legions of whiny malcontents frustrated with bureaucratic resistance to releasing records under the Freedom of Information Act. Theoretically, the new OGIS would serve as a referee to mediate squabbles between federal agencies and taxpayers; theoretically, upon opening for business in 2009, it would expedite response-waiting times and unclog the FOIA pipeline.

Well, we all know how well that worked out. De Void’s sole encounter with OGIS this year turned out to be par for the course. A few months ago, an Associated Press analysis revealed that America’s FOIA law had degenerated into parody, in no small measure because of accelerating volume and underfunded FOIA offices. The AP reported that the Obama administration set a record for futility in the transparency department. One of every six FOIA requests came back empty, and 77 percent of appeals for government files were returned with no information at all or with records that were at least partially redacted.

Please enjoy the music as our operators are assisting other clients. For personalized rejections, press 1. For generic rejections, press 2. To talk with a customer satisfaction agent who speaks no English, press 3. All others please stay on the line or call back later/CREDIT: justsecurity.org Please enjoy the music while our operators assist other customers. For personalized rejections, press 1. For generic rejections, press 2. To talk with a customer satisfaction agent who speaks no English, press 3. All others please stay on the line, call back later, or pull my finger./CREDIT: justsecurity.org

But hey, look what happened last week. Lost amid the body counts from America’s latest massacre fetish came news that Congress had actually gotten off its ass and produced a piece of bipartisan legislation called the Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2016. Sent to Obama’s desk a mere 7.5 years after the new president, on Inauguration Day, signed two executive orders directing federal agencies to handle FOIA requests with “a presumption of openness,” the reform bill now technically codifies those presidential directives. Open-government advocates like the Sunlight Foundation are lauding the bill because it strengthens “the proactive disclosure of information in digital formats and the Office of Government Services, directs the White House to create software for creating requests, and requires all federal agencies to update their regulations.” It also prohibits the next president from countermanding the imminent new law with an executive order.

This should be a good thing, right? Especially if, as per her stated intention, Hillary Clinton gets into the Oval Office with designs on declassifying government UFO records. So why are UFO researchers rolling their eyes?

“Sorry to be so cynical,” emails UFO historian Jan Aldrich, whose quest for some of those sequestered, long lost or hopelessly misplaced records spans decades. “But I foresee the same side stepping, cutesy evasions, non answers, ignoring requests and foot dragging for years, even a decade as before.”

Maybe that’s because Congress – which also made sure to exempt its own members from letting taxpayers snoop into their own business under the new reinvigorated FOIA 2.0 dragnet – decided not to include additional funding for personnel, training or other resources to accommodate growing public demand. Moreover, FOIA 2.0’s call for the “presumption of openness” gets checked when federal agencies argue that declassification of contested records would produce “foreseeable harm.” When it comes to one of the most valuable tools for UFO sleuths – raw radar records – Uncle Sam slammed that door several years ago.

MUFON research director Robert Powell, co-author of the landmark radar analysis of the UFO that bore down on President Bush’s Texas estate in 2008, doubts FOIA 2.0 will have any effect on this niche. Following the Stephenville incident, which also involved F-16s whose presence was initially denied by military sources, Powell and colleague Glen Schulze filed FOIAs and received radar confirmation of the UFO – and the jet fighters – from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Weather Service. However, requests for military radar data from multiple entities provoked a robo-reply: “We have found no records responsive to your request.”

Since then, federal agencies, civilian and military, have tightened the screws on access to all unfiltered radar returns. Most notably, the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, which had at least been forwarding said FAA data to FOIA researchers, was ordered to cease and desist a couple of years ago.

“It was always ironic to me that 84 RADES gave us the FAA data we were looking for after the FAA said those records had been destroyed,” says Powell. He remembers a conversation with a civilian radar operator, a year or so after release of the MUFON Stephenville report. The radar guy told Powell the standard line about records being routinely destroyed within several weeks of recording simply wasn’t true. “He said, ‘Every six months I get a performance review, and they’ll go over all that data to see if I did my job right.’

“I suspect they keep radar data on a local server,” Powell adds, “and probably because of the size of the file they delete the local server and ship those records off to some remote bigger file. You can protest to headquarters all you want, but I think their policy will still be ‘we don’t have anything.’ And there’s not much you can do with that.”

On July 4, 1966, President Johnson signed the original FOIA into law. Maybe Obama will do the same with 2.0 in a couple of weeks. At least it’ll make a good photo op.

Be Sociable, Share!



Source link

Facebook Comments

Loading...

LEAVE A REPLY

fifteen + 2 =