Report: Obama Admin Comes Up Empty For 130K Records Requests

March 18, 2016

The Obama administration set a record last year for coming up empty in response to public records requests, a recent analysis found.

The Associated Press determined that, in the last fiscal year, federal officials failed 129,825 times to produce any documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This number accounted for over one in six records requests to which the government responded in fiscal year 2015.

In particular, the FBI told individuals it came up empty in response to 5,168 requests, which represented 39 percent of the records requests. U.S. Customs and Border Protection also failed to produce any documents in response to requests 34 percent of the time.

The number of records cases in which federal officials came up empty increased by 35 percent over fiscal year 2014.

The AP reviewed all records requests filed with 100 different federal government agencies during the previous fiscal year. The records were recently released by the Obama administration and indicated that federal employees completed a record-high 769,903 records requests.

Obama administration officials have previously claimed to have found no files in response to FOIA requests, only to later discover relevant documents. For example, the website Gawker took legal action against the State Department after the agency responded to a request in 2013 saying that it could not find any emails that ex-Clinton aide Philippe Reines sent to reporters. The agency later turned up 90,000 such messages.

Federal officials do not commonly offer an in-depth description of how a records search was conducted if no relevant documents are found.

In 2015, the Obama administration also censored documents or denied individuals access to them in response to 596,095 requests, a record high. This represented over 77 percent of the requests completed.

Obama has long described his administration is the most transparent in history.

Published under: Barack Obama