I knew that we’d be hearing from Rep. Darrell Issa again, but I didn’t think it would be quite this soon. (Remember? We wrote about Issa [Here] just last week in a blog prophetically titled, "A Preview of Coming Attractions.")
Rep. Issa has been a busy boy this week or probably more correctly, his staff has been busy. If you recall, Darrell Issa (R, CA) is the new chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Last weekend, Eric Lipton, the NYTimes reporter now stationed in Washington, wrote this article, “Republican Congressman Proposes Tracking Freedom Of Information Act Requests.” [Here]
Mr. Issa sent a letter [Here] on Tuesday asking 180 federal agencies, from the Department of Defense to the Social Security Administration, for electronic files containing the names of people who requested the documents, the date of their requests and a description of information they sought. For those still pending after more than 45 days, he also asked for any communication between the requestor and the federal agency. The request covers the final three years of Bush administration and the first two years of President Obama’s.
Yearly, the federal government receives about 600,000 FOIA requests, as they are called, a vast majority from corporate executives seeking information on competitors that might do business with the government. A much smaller number comes from civil libertarians, private citizens, whistle-blowers or journalists seeking information on otherwise secret government operations.
Exactly how this will play out is hard to tell. Issa’s staff is quick to point out that Rep. Issa has no hidden agenda in this request, except to make sure that the Freedom Of Information Act is being duly carried out by the federal agencies. However, there are few Democrats in D.C. who would completely trust those assurances. Would you?
Chairman Issa has already banged heads with the Ranking Member, Elijah Cummings (D, MD), on another matter. In early January, Issa sent a request to industry lobbyists and trade groups, for information about federal regulations that they would like to see rolled back or eradicated. Issa refused to turn over the industry replies to Cummings. In other words, the Democratic members of that committee would have had to walk into hearings about the matter blind and dumb.
Cummings is a fighter and learned the political ropes the hard way by climbing the ladder in Maryland politics. He remains an extremely popular representative within his district, always polling more than 70% in his Congressional elections. Methinks Mr. Issa has pulled the tail of a tiger.
Cummings has countered Issa's stonewalling by writing to the lobbyists and trade organizations that Issa had contacted, requesting copies of the responses that they have sent to Chairman Issa. The whole episode is bizarre. Issa’s letter is like writing to the Mob to ask them what laws they’d like to have changed. I guess we all knew that this is the kind of governance we would have under Issa’s watch, but it’s still a shock when it occurs.
Another Issa mystery: Why is Darrell Issa in Pakistan with a Congressional delegation that is meeting with the President of Pakistan and its Prime Minister about the release of an American citizen and allegedly an embassy employee who is charged with killing two men? Raymond Davis, the American in question, shot the men several times. He claims that they had just robbed a Pakistan citizen and he feared for his life. [Here]
But why are Darrell Issa and the other members of the Congressional group involved at all? Why isn't the State Department handling it?
Nothing is ever very clear when Issa is involved, is it?...