Freedom of (some) information: US ‘national security’ hampers data access

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Despite President Obama’s promise that openness will prevail, America’s government agencies continue to tighten their grip over free public access of state documents, AP reports. Papers are mostly being censored to conform to the security policy.

America’s Freedom of Information Act has been increasingly sacrificed for the sake of national security, revealed the latest analyses of the Associated Press.

Having examined the annual document workflow of the 33 federal government agencies, the Associated Press concluded that just over a third of the private requests applied to US government agencies in 2012 were turned down altogether for various reasons, the most common of which are matters of national security.

In some cases the requested records could not be found, while in others the requests were determined improper or the requestor refused to pay for the copies.

A considerable part of the remaining nearly two-thirds of the requests that were finally handed over to the applicants had been either preliminarily censored or selectively curtailed.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz reported of great effort the government agencies have demonstrated responsiveness in 2012 to “the president’s call for greater transparency.”

Though the administration has answered a record number of requests in 2012, still matters of the national security withheld information in at least 5,223 cases in 2012, a sudden increase from 4,243 cases in 2011 (and even fewer – 3,805 cases – during  Obama’s first year in office).

The US State Department answered just 57 per cent of its requests, a dramatic fall from 75 per cent in 2011.

Up to 60 per cent of 3,586 requests applied to the CIA were either censored or withheld (49 per cent in 2011).

The Pentagon’s National Security Agency monitoring internet traffic and phone calls worldwide follows closely with 2,390 denials last year.

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