The Freedom of Information Act has been a hotly contested subject in the “most transparent administration in history.” While President Obama and his colleagues have touted their unprecedented cooperation with the public, they – including the State Department – have been working tirelessly to protect some of the most meaningful – and dangerous – materials from the public eye.
On Tuesday, Judicial Watch, which has, itself, been working tirelessly to breakdown the Obama Administration’s information roadblocks, was awarded a victory for transparency, when a judge granted JW’s motion for discovery in a long running FOIA-related case against the State Department. The judgment, which is the result of a larger case seeking State Department records about Huma Abedin’s apparent double employment with the State Department and the Clinton Foundation, will allow Judicial Watch to request documents related to whether State and Clinton deliberately used FOIA to slow Judicial Watch down.
And the judge wasn’t subtle in how he felt Judicial Watch’s lawsuit – and related discovery measures – could help Americans understand exactly what was going on inside Hillary Clinton’s State Department hovel.
That could give the group — and the broader public — answers as to who approved Mrs. Clinton’s unique arrangement, who else in government knew about it and why they shielded it for so long. It also could force Mrs. Clinton to answer questions about how she sorted through her account and decided which messages she didn’t want to turn over to the government.
Judge Sullivan said he is “inclined” to issue a subpoena demanding that Mrs. Clinton and top aide Huma Abedin turn over the entire email system they used. He delayed that decision, saying he will wait to see what he learns from the discovery process, but was irked by answers the Obama administration has given. “How on earth can the court conclude there is not at minimum a reasonable suspicion of bad faith?” Judge Sullivan said.
Judge Sullivan initially announced his ruling from the bench during a hearing this morning and, over the objections of the State Department, authorized Judicial Watch to submit a plan for “narrowly-tailored discovery.” Judge Sullivan is also considering whether to order the State Department to subpoena all the emails on the clinton.com email system.
Part of the reason the judge was so adamant, it seems, is that he noted that the State Department repeatedly claimed to have conducted a full search of their records, finding nothing, only to show up, on multiple occasions, with material they had previously said they didn’t have. And he was concerned that a Cabinet-level official, Mrs. Clinton, was given deference the government isn’t generally inclined to give – handling open records request almost daily, without ever producing a single response or email.
It’s not as if Judge Sullivan is a right-wing nut job, either. By Judicial Watch’s own admission, the discovery request was something a judge would rarely grant, and Sullivan was appointed by Bill Clinton, not George W. Bush. And while Sullivan might have been reticent to approve such a measure in other cases, he seemed, according to the Washington Times, linked above, deeply concerned about how the Obama Administration, as a whole, has handled the transparency issue. According to a statement Judicial Watch released Tuesday night, the victory is far-flung, and will, hopefully, make forcing transparency on an otherwise opaque administration much easier.