National Archives Tried to Hide Email About Living in Fear of White House


The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) tried to hide an email about its fear of upsetting the White House from Freedom of Information Act requests by the Associated Press, the AP reported Friday.

Associated Press president Gary Pruitt reported in an op-ed on government transparency that, during the course of an AP investigation into Michelle Obama’s dresses, NARA used a privacy exemption to redact a line in an email that was actually about the agency’s fear of the White House:

As the president said, the United States should not withhold or censor government files merely because they might be embarrassing.

But it happens anyway.

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).”

Upon taking office, President Obama pledged to run the “most transparent administration in history.”

The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails,” the White House said in a 2009 memo to all federal agencies. “The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.”


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