Also Shut Down: Government Transparency

October 9, 2013

If you have a FOIA request pending, it is likely to be on hold. Moreover, the people who could verify this are not answering the phone. Want to file a new FOIA request? Good luck. The federal government is shut down, and as of now there is no sign that it will go back to work.

Not only are the government's hands covering its mouth, but they are also covering its eyes and ears. You will not read much about this on government websites, since many of them are also shut down or are not being updated.

It may not be true for all government agencies, but it is true for many of them.

"The National Security Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration," the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reports, "are among those who have announced they will not process FOIA requests until their funding is restored."

Even common information — the kind you do not have to request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — is unavailable. The websites for the Agriculture Department, the National Park Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are completely unavailable. EPA's site announces that it will no longer be updated, as do the sites of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Let's just say your fertilizer depot or your petroleum refinery blows up. It is unclear that the US Chemical Safety Board will be able to investigate what caused it — whether terrorists or sloppy maintenance. The CSB website only says, a bit cryptically, that Congress has not enacted an appropriation for the CSB. If the CSB can not find out about it, neither can the US public.