Michigan Is Cracking Down On Bureaucrats Sidestepping FOIA… Should Congress Follow Suit?

Published on September 7, 2023

[Editor’s note: Thanks to the generous support of readers, our ClashDaily store helps offset operating costs. We don’t have to hide our best content behind a paywall like other sites. If you’re looking for righteous gear or rowdy merch we’ve got you covered.]

For a government to be ‘of, by and for the people’ to ‘not perish from the Earth’ The People must have some means to hold politicians and civil servants accountable for how faithfully they have discharged their duties.

The Limitations Of Oversight

The oversight our system has developed includes a variety of tools by which those acting in the government’s name can be scrutinized. A big part of that transparency comes by the means of inquiries using FOIA rules.

The nature of governing requires that some information is NOT for public consumption and is guarded by privacy laws or other reasons whereby sensitive information can be redacted.

Special rules have been developed granting privacy between (for example) legal counsel and a client or executives and their advisors. Except in unusual situations — and even then, it would require court order — that privacy has generally been considered sacrosanct.

Unless there is some evidence of bad faith or criminality between the lawyer and the client, that communication is never responsive.

That system granted protections to private information (including executive privilege communications) — while assuming all parties were acting in good faith.

Unfortunately, Madison was right in saying ‘if men were angels, no government would be necessary.’ People in government are just as prone to being venal and corrupt as anyone else. They are as resisitent to criticism, accountability, and scrutiny as anyone else.

Thus it is no surprise that bureaucrats and elected officials have a bad habit of redacting content that SHOULD be available to the public but is embarrassing enough that they would like to keep it hidden.

The Flint Michigan Scandal

Michigan has learned such lessons the hard way in looking back at what happened with Flint. Key officials with oversight and responsibility just ‘happened’ to all of their text information wiped, removing any conversations that would have occurred at critical dates in the investigation that followed the crisis in Fling.

Bureaucrats Learned The WRONG Lessons

Since then, it has been revealed that government officials are using special characters other than the 26 letters in the alphabet as placeholders and code so that messages with sensitive phrases will not pop up in a FOIA search.

It’s a bad-faith tool for avoiding accountability. Michigan lawmakers are understandably upset that the wrong lessons were learned by bureaucrats in the aftermath of Flint and they are putting forward legislation to correct this problem.

A new bill aims to protect public access to government communications under the Freedom of Information Act by preventing the government from speaking in code to thwart records requests.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, introduced the legislation after a lawsuit claimed Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration used encrypted Greek letters to discuss the Benton Harbor water lead crisis to avoid public scrutiny.

“My legislation would help ensure FOIA works to help hold government officials accountable by clarifying the intent of the law and the penalties for failing to do so,” McBroom said in a statement. “Whether this incident was the result of a coding glitch or an intentional effort to hide their statements from the public, we should all be able to agree that we need better protections in place to preserve communications in a way that doesn’t avoid honest disclosure.” — JustTheNews

A Very Relevant Federal Problem

The timing of this story is interesting. At the federal level we are currently seeing a House Oversight investigation into what might constitute criminal corruption with Joe and Hunter Biden in which we have confirmation that Joe Biden was communicating on government servers under a bogus name.

Some of that communication under the false name was sent to Hunter Biden and his associates.

Oversight wants access to that information… but because it was sent by then Vice-President (and now President) Biden, both Joe Biden and Barack Obama need to sign off on that information being released to the public.

A Modest Proposal

It seems obvious to this writer that ANY communications that do not comply with transparency standards in effect at the time it was written (including sending under a false name or using coded language that won’t get noticed by the search algo) should be assumed to have been given in bad faith and be given NO special considerations with respect to the redaction protection of that content’s privacy.

Executive privilege or other similar provisions ought not apply to documents written in bad faith.

Congressional oversight should have absolutely unhindered access to any document employing such tactics.

Anyone caught in such a breech of trust should face a meaningful penalty — something along the lines of lifetime disqualification from any elected office or public service job in America, forfeiture of any pension or similar benefits, permanent revocation of and/or disqualification for any security clearance and (depending on the seriousness of the infraction) possible fines and/or prison time.

Does that seem like a reasonable response to flagrant contempt for The People they were hired to represent?

John The Baptist: A Rude Awakening Precedes A Great Awakening.

This timely little tome chronicles the politically incorrect ministry of one of God’s most effective wildmen, John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ’s ministry.

The abrasive message of repentance John preached 2000 years ago is still confrontational and offensive today — but it is also life-changing.

In our putrid, worldly culture that has turned away from God, this book is a must-read for every Christian.

Available in paperback for those of you who like the feel of the pages in your hot, little hands, on Kindle to keep it right at your fingertips, and as an epic Audiobook.