Department Of Labor Asked Associated Press For $1 Million Before Handing Over Info


Under the Freedom of Information Act, a government agency can’t charge a news organization for any cost associated with producing documents it requests, other than per-page photocopy charges after printing 100 pages.

But the U.S. Department of Labor initially demanded that the Associated Press hand over $1 million when it requested a list of “secret” government email addresses surreptitiously being used by several of President Barack Obama’s political appointees, ostensibly because coming up with the information would cost the government a lot of money, time and resources.

The AP, undoubtedly still smarting over being secretly surveiled by the Department of Justice, released news of the Labor Department’s million-dollar demand in a Wednesday story on the larger phenomenon of Federal agencies using off-the-public-grid email addresses as a way to communicate important information without inbox clutter – as well as in secret. The AP has discovered secret email addresses within both the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – though it admits there may be others among the 10 agencies that haven’t yet turned over their full email lists for public inspection.

The AP also challenged the government’s contention that communications using the secret addresses are, as a matter of practice, included in the dragnet of information that’s gathered whenever someone (like the AP) requests public records. It tried, but found only one instance when that claim was borne out. Additionally, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius’ non-public email address returns zero hits in Google searches, and even Congressional oversight committee leaders say they’ve never been privy to the secret email addresses.

All of which gets back to the Labor Department’s very illegal demand for a million bucks from a newsgathering organization. The Department later relented and called the demand a “mistake.” White House watcher Keith Koffler called it a shakedown.

In the latest blow to the Obama administration’s claim to be the “openness administration,” word emerged today that the Department of Labor sought to charge a news organization more than $1 million for information.

…[I]t would appear demanding such and exorbitant sum to drum up a few email addresses may amount to an effort to create a barrier to the release of information.

The episode suggests that the failure to appreciate the role of the press extends well beyond the White House, which bullies reporters to suppress the news, and the Justice Department, which makes them subject to criminal inquiry for collecting information. It is one of the cardinal rules of journalism that you don’t pay for information, particularly not a sum like $1 million.

Such obstructionist actions are more than obviously illegal and heavy-handed. They suggest that Obama and his key appointees, scattered across more than a dozen Federal agencies, are hiding something. And the daily revelations that are emerging from the Administration’s recent scandals, cover-ups and power abuses only serve to heighten that suspicion.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • Warrior

    Subject: Best English Lesson

    This is the best, most interesting English lesson I have had to date.

    Did you know “listen” and “silent” use the same letters?

    Do you know that the words “race car” spelled backwards still spells “race car”?

    And that “eat” is the only word that if you take the first letter and move it to the last, it spells its past tense “ate”?

    And have you noticed that if you rearrange the letters in “illegal immigrants,” and add just a few more letters, it spells: “Go home you free-loading, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking, baby-making, non-English-speaking jackasses and take those other hairy-faced, sandal-wearing, bomb-making, camel-riding, goat-loving, raggedy-ass bastards with you.”

    How weird is that?

  • buck

    Our congress will never get to the bottom of all the lies and cover-ups…

  • momo

    Government…Chicago style.

  • ireAmerica

    From: the U.S. Department of Labor – After getting caught.

    Oh we’re sorry, we weren’t aware of the LAWS governing our activities. We were just punishing, er, charging AP a fee for the info. We weren’t trying to commit FELONY EXTORTION or anything, and we’ve already taken steps to prevent ourselves from trying to commit FELONY EXTORTION against AP moving forward.

    Don’t prosecute us, we’re sorry about the FELONY EXTORTION.