A disturbing report in this morning’s Washington Post details what appears to be a Trump administration effort to shroud tens of thousands of government records that had been readily available to Americans online.
In the past three months, the administration has removed nearly 30,000 sets of government data from www.data.gov, the Post reported. That’s just over 20 percent of the data sets that had been stored on the site.
“The Trump administration seems determined to utilize a larger version of Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility to cover the entire administration,” said Norman Eisen, who was President Barack Obama’s special counsel on ethics and is now a fellow in the Brookings Institution’s governance studies program.
Eisen said the data drain cuts into the public’s ability to hold the administration accountable.
Many of the removed records may remain accessible through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. But FOIA requests routinely go unanswered for weeks or months and there are vast collections of government data that most Americans don’t know exist and so wouldn’t think to request.
The Post said some of the information removed from data.gov relates to government actions to enforce various business regulations. The Obama administration had publicized the enforcement actions as part of a “naming and shaming” strategy to encourage compliance with the rules, the Post reported.
“In other cases, the administration appears to be dimming the prior spotlight on the background and conduct of top officials. The administration no longer publishes online the ethics waivers granted to appointees who would otherwise be barred from joining the government because of recent lobbying activities. Nor is the White House releasing logs of its visitors, making it difficult for the public to keep track of who is stopping by to see the president’s inner circle.”
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms