Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Freedom of Information: Stalled at CDC and D.C. Government

October 27, 2009 6:05 PM

In August 2009, CBS News made a simple request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for public documents, e-mails and other materials CDC used to communicate to states the decision to stop testing individual cases of Novel H1N1, or “swine flu.” When the public affairs folks at CDC refused to produce the documents and quit responding to my queries altogether, I filed a formal Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the materials. Members of the news media are entitled to expedited access, which I requested, since this was for a pending news report and on an issue of public health and interest.

The Obama administration made a commitment to a “new era of open government,” as stated in a presidential memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). On March 19, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder issued new FOIA guidelines to “restore the public’s ability to access information in a timely manner.”

Two months after my FOI request, the CDC has yet to produce any of these easily retrievable materials. Sadly, this is of little surprise. This has become standard operating procedure in Washington.


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