Court rules Obama adminstration can’t use private email accounts to bypass law

I love the timing: A federal court today ruled that government officials in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) cannot use private email accounts to evade public record laws.

Throughout the case, the government argued that “[d]ocuments on a nongovernmental email server are outside the possession or control of federal agencies, and thus beyond the scope of FOIA.”

Judge David Sentelle, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, disagreed with that reasoning and ordered the lower court to reconsider the case. “If a department head can deprive the citizens of their right to know what his department is up to by the simple expedient of maintaining his departmental emails on an account in another domain, that purpose is hardly served,” Sentelle wrote. “It would make as much sense to say that the department head could deprive requestors of hard-copy documents by leaving them in a file at his daughter’s house and then claiming that they are under her control,” he said.

This absurd rulling, which says that government officials have to follow the law, will surely be overturned. We can’t have these saints oppressed by things as evil as the law.

Congress has slashed the budget of John Holdren’s White House Science Office

The Senate/House final deal for the White House Science Office has slashed its budget by one third.

Frustrated that White House officials [i.e. John Holdren] have ignored congressional language curtailing scientific collaborations with China, legislators have decided to get their attention through a 32% cut in the tiny budget of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

See this story for more background.

House spending panel cuts John Holdren’s science office budget by 55%

The House spending panel today proposed cutting the budget of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) office, run by John Holdren, by 55%.

“OSTP has chosen to disregard a strong and unambiguous legislative prohibition on bilateral engagement with China or Chinese-owned companies,” says language accompanying the 2012 bill, to be voted on tomorrow by the full appropriations committee. “OSTP’s behavior demonstrates a lack of respect for the policy and oversight roles of the Congress.”

I think the Obama administration is about to discover that ignoring the law as passed by Congress can have bad consequences.