Friday, February 10, 2017

DOJ Ditches FOIA for Obama Finale

For years, the Editor of this blog has requested information on when granted clemency applications have been filed with the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) and when they have been forwarded to the White House. While the information revealed absolutely nothing about the content or merit of particular applications, reasons for clemency, reports, inter-agency communications, or anything at all substantive re the deliberation process ... it did provide relevant factual information on the flow of successful applications through the clemency process.

These FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests were granted to the Editor through the entire administration of George W. Bush (eight years) and the Obama administration as well, for the better part of six years, until April of 2015. Indeed, the requests were routinely sent, acknowledged by OPA and fulfilled by OPA in a matter of weeks ... two or three weeks max. Here is the history of a request William N. Taylor II "Executive Officer, Office of the Pardon Attorney" killed after 784 days.

December 17, 2014 - FOIA request filed.

April 10, 2015 - the records you request will “require a significant amount of time” to search, scan and redact.

July 20, 2015 - your requests have been assigned to “the complex track” and will “necessarily take longer” to be addressed.

Dec. 12, 2016 - "... those data points are captured in our electronic case management system. However, they are not easily exported out ... it would literally require a staff employee to manually open each electronic case file to copy and paste that information from the case file to a spreadsheet ... ... we do not have the funding or the manpower to accommodate such a request at this time.

... it would require some discussion with all of the stakeholders involved in the executive clemency process to see if they all would approve of having that information public even if we (OPA) could afford to take the project on.

Feb. 8, 2017 -  After carefully considering your request, I have determined that if any such records do exist, they are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5), which concerns attorney work product protected by the deliberative process privilege.

Thus, William N. Taylor II covers the tracks of the greatest fourth year clemency surge in history, overturning 15 plus years of past practice in his own office, in Republican and Democratic administrations.

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