This is absolutely bizarre. The Department of Homeland Security says it is an invasion of privacy to publish the office phone numbers of their public information officers — you know, the people they designate to answer questions for the public and the press.
Some federal agencies post the office phone numbers of public affairs staff on their websites.
Not the Department of Homeland Security, which believes their release poses “a clearly unwarranted invasion” of employee privacy.
That was the department’s response when it denied a Federal Times Freedom of Information Act request for the office phone numbers of its official spokesman. Personal privacy exemptions to FOIA are more commonly used to block disclosure of personnel or medical files.
DHS’ response typifies what many see as the Obama administration’s unfulfilled promise to shed more light on government operations through FOIA, the key federal open records law.
The day after President Obama took office in January 2009, he directed agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure” when responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.
“I just can’t say that I’ve seen the kind of changes I expected,” Anne Weismann, chief counsel at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, said last week. “It’s been a big disappointment.”
At Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Executive Director Jeff Ruch said his organization files a new lawsuit roughly every three weeks to force agencies to release records. In general, Ruch said, the administration has been leading by “aspiration instead of perspiration.
“They’ll put out a lofty memo, but take no steps to make sure that people are following the memo,” Ruch said.
As someone who talks to PIOs all the time, I find this absolutely baffling.