Wednesday, December 18

Administration denies FOIA request by claiming "Imperial privilege"--or close enough

One of the widely-known means of King Barack ruling by decree is to issue an Executive Order.  That's so well known that when he issues one, prudent citizens look for the implied screwing.

Now comes a new one, called a "Presidential Policy Directive."  According to a ruling just issued by the U.S. district court for D.C., they have the force of law and are the functional equivalent of an Executive Order.

Now here's the twist:  A couple of watchdog groups got wind of an unclassified directive called "PPD-6" and were curious to know what it decreed.  They asked both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, but both agencies told 'em to fuck off.

The groups then filed FOIA lawsuits seeking the contents of the directive.  The emperor's agents responded by claiming they weren't required to reveal the contents of the directive because of an exemption in the FOIA act called the "presidential communications privilege"--a device that “preserves the president’s ability to obtain candid...opinions from his advisors and to make decisions confidentially.”

The court heard evidence from both sides, and proceeded to smack Barry's boys down in no uncertain terms.  The directive in no way qualified for the claimed exemption, as it was an order from Barry to his minions, not a transmission of advice *to* the king.

Turns out this particular directive doesn't do anything worrisome.  What IS a matter of concern is that State and USAID tried to keep the contents of this unclassified, quite mundane memo secret--and tried to do so by invoking a legal theory which--if it flew--would mean all orders from King Barack could be kept secret, even if they didn't harm national security or reveal advice from the king's counselors.

Shit like this doesn't "just happen" because some hard-charging GS-9 gets a yen to test his powers.  Rather, it's carefully coordinated, since an adverse decision could very easily result in political embarrassment (and election losses) for the president and his party.  So you can bet the White House gave 'em the green light to do exactly what they did.

And the question is: Why?  I suspect they saw a possible method which, if successful, would shield a *whole* bunch of people in the administration from even the tiny amount of oversight currently being attempted by the House.

But again:  Why would they risk the embarrassment of a really sharp smackdown (which is what happened) unless the payoff was potentially greater?

So...I wonder what they were *really* trying to conceal?

A second concern is how easily the king can modify future directives to make them qualify for the exemption that failed in this case.  All that's needed is to simply include a paragraph in the directive summarizing advice supposedly received from experts at one of the agencies affected, and the claimed exemption will (arguably) fly.

This, folks, was a "dry run."  And they've already learned what they need to know to make it work next time.

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