At the National Archives, living in fear

The Free Beacon reports on the news buried in an op-column by AP president Gary Pruitt on the undermining of the Freedom of Information Act by “authorities” (to use Pruitt’s anodyne term) responsible for compliance with it. “We’re talking about this issue now because of Sunshine Week,” Pruitt explains, “created a decade ago to showcase the laws that give Americans the right to know what their government is up to. These days, Sunshine Week is a time to put a spotlight on government efforts to strangle those rights.”

This is a theme, incidentally, that Sharyl Attkisson pursues in detail, naming names and citing incidents, in her invaluable Stonewalled; Attkisson gives us a mainstream media insider’s account of life in the Age of Obama.

In any event, this is news:

In government emails that AP obtained in reporting about who pays for Michelle Obama’s expensive dresses, the National Archives and Records Administration blacked out one sentence repeatedly, citing a part of the law intended to shield personal information such as Social Security numbers or home addresses.

The blacked-out sentence? The government slipped and let it through on one page of the redacted documents: “We live in constant fear of upsetting the WH (White House).”

Pruitt is circumspect about saying it, but the redaction of documents to prevent embarrassment of the White House is not legal under the Freedom of Information Act. The privacy exemption asserted to withhold that sentence in this case is frivolous.

And one can’t help but wonder what experience gives rise to the fear of the folks at the National Archives. I hear the voice of experience in that fear.

Not only is the accidentally disclosed sentence news by itself, it is the kind of news that requires a follow-up story or two to fill it out. The Free Beacon picked up on the news in Pruitt’s column here, and Daniel Greenfield concisely comments at FrontPage: “This is what life under tyranny looks like.”

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