Federal Government spent most money at DOJ fighting FOIA Lawsuits in final Obama year : Report

By LOUIS FLORES

In the final year of the Obama administration, the Federal Government spent over $36 million fighting lawsuits filed by the makers of request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, seeking to compel the Government to comply with the Federal open records law. News of the expense was reported by The Associated Press in a report that noted that the expense comprised legal costs incurred by the Government for "defending its refusal to turn over" Federal records. The greatest expense, $12 million, was spent by the U.S. Department of Justice, or the DOJ, according to the AP report.

Despite claims that former President Barack Obama would usher in the most transparent administration, the Government he administered was described in its final year as one of the "most secretive" by The Washington Post.

The DOJ has been the target of two requests made under FOIA filed by the publisher of Progress Queens. After no records were ever released, each FOIA Request resulted in the filing of lawsuits, seeking to compel the Government to comply with FOIA. Judges in Brooklyn Federal Court ruled against the publisher of Progress Queens in the First FOIA Lawsuit, and those rulings are presently being appealed. The First FOIA Lawsuit sought records about policies, procedures, and other DOJ records about the prosecution of activists. The Second FOIA Lawsuit is pending before Manhattan Federal Court. The Second FOIA Lawsuit seeks the release of records of speeches of former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

On 27 February, the publisher of Progress Queens began a liquids-only fast to peacefully protest how the DOJ violates FOIA. The fast is expected to last 22 days, but it may end sooner if the DOJ files its Answer to the Complaint that commenced the Second FOIA Lawsuit. If the fast reaches the twenty-second day, the fast will exceed the longest fast undertaken by Mahatma Gandhi. There were two fasts undertaken by Mr. Gandhi that were tied for the longest at 21 days. Although the fasts undertaken by the publisher of Progress Queens and by Mr. Gandhi were not identical, the dedication to sacrifice and nonviolence have remained the same.

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