Ahead of a congressional hearing this week on whether senior political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security have blocked the release of some documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act
, a series of newly uncensored emails indicate that some staffers complained for months of internal "meddling" by Obama-appointed officials
Obtained by The Associated Press, the emails describe “crazy” and “bananas!” political reviews
of document requests, and “constant stonewalling
” as files went to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s political staff as part of the pre-release vetting process.
In one recent instance cited by the AP, immigration rights advocates had asked the department for e-mails that political appointees had sent to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement about a controversial program. The internal search uncovered "embarrassing, crude exchanges," that were revealed not by the senders of those emails but by the recipients
The department's chief privacy officer, Mary Ellen Callahan, herself a political appointee, warned in emails that the department could be sued
for the delays sparked by the political reviews. "This level of attention is CRAZY," she wrote to her deputy in late 2009, musing that she hoped someone would submit a FOIA request on the process itself
, the AP reported.