Is FOIA harassment? The WaPo thinks so

The Washington Post used the holiday weekend to weigh-in on the case of Michael Mann’s emails, you know, the ones a Prince William County judge ordered the University of Virginia to produce after a FOIA request from Del. Bob Marshall and the American Tradition Institute.

The WaPo’s editorial contains little that is new for anyone who has been following this case over the last few months. But for those who have, the omissions in the piece are stunning. The anonymous editors thunder that ATI “…boasts about its challenges to environmental regulations across the country,” and proceeds to impugn the character of Chris Horner, the lawyer who has lead the charge to get UVA to obey the law.

As Mr. Horner will tell you, though, the WaPo’s attempt at making him look like a well-coiffed Lucifer is pretty thin gruel compared to the attacks he’s weathered from others during his career. Even so, it is interesting to see the newspaper, the very one that, back in the day, risked much to publish the Pentagon Papers in an effort to get the truth out there, should appear so upset when a former state employee’s emails are required to be made public under a long-standing Virginia law promoting openness. The WaPo’s crocodile tears over academic freedom, the search for truth, mom, apple pie and such, should not distract us from the University of Virginia’s wretched, and selective, behavior in this matter.

Recall that when Del. Marshall originally requested Dr. Mann’s records, UVA told him they had been deleted, as Mann was no longer an employee. At roughly the same time, when Greenpeace requested the emails and much more of former professors Pat Michaels and Fred Singer, UVA not only found the records, but was eager to comply with the group’s request. Greenpeace was looking for “a list of grants that financed their research. The organization also requested conflict-of-interest statements, disclosure forms on outside income, correspondence with conservative advocacy groups and correspondence with ExxonMobil and other companies.”

The Post doesn’t mention any of this, alas. Nor does it mention Greenpeace’s “investigation” of Ken Cuccinelli for his role in destroying polar bears or some such nonsense.

And let’s not forget that when Cuccinelli filed his civil investigation demand, the great, good and wise on the University’s faculty rose up to fight the idea because it threatened free inquiry. Or maybe it was puppies. Interest groups, as nefarious, proud and chest-thumping as ATI gathered the signatures of nearly 800 Virginia academics to decry Cuccinelli’s witch hunt.

One of the prime movers of that effort, the Union of Concerned Scientists, makes no bones about its views on global warming and the role it plays in fighting those truly despicable climate skeptics.

The WaPo doesn’t include such references, nevermind the University of Virginia’s arrogance and duplicity regarding FOIA. That would spoil the narrative. And we can’t have that.

(cross-posted at Score Radio Network)

  • Jamie Jacoby

    There is nothing new under the sun. The entire reason that FOIA is important is that groups seeking privilege prefer to do so under cover of darkness.

    At one time, the net result of shining the light of public disclosure on most of what government does would have resulted in revulsion and mass protest. Now, all that matters is whether or not I get my free stuff, and “what’s on TV”?

    The Federal Reserve bailed out foreign banks to the tune of hundreds of billions of newly-printed debt securities of zero maturity, known as “Federal Reserve Notes,” denominated in dollars. Yawn. Obama ignores the War Powers Act’s 60-day limit, saying his Libyan action is too small to fit in the definition, and no one, not even “conservative leadership” notices.

    Is “Criminal Minds” a repeat tonight?

  • Tim J

    If you are a public and taxpayer supported institution, then you are subject to law governing public information such as may be requested under FOIA. If you aren’t, then you can play legal and public relations games with inquiring minds that are asking for the same information. UVA, once a great institution, has been relegated to “victim” status by WaPo and has been damaged by special interest groups who are taking a stand on an agenda based on the bastion of current progressive ideology. I hope my old and moldy UVA degree and a couple of bucks will still get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

  • ToR

    So, if I file a FOIA request for any government employee’s email communications I should get them?

  • Jamie Jacoby

    “So, if I file a FOIA request for any government employee’s email communications I should get them?”

    If I am paying you, you are my employee. Are my employees allowed to keep secrets from me for things they do on my dime? NO.

  • valentinus


    Yes if your request is consistent with FOIA or other relevant statutes and can convince the requisite legal authorities if the organization protests.

    Obama really has twisted leftists in a pretzel to defend him and his goofy admin. And boy do they hate it when their own tactics are used against them.

  • Traderdad


    In following your line of thinking would it be beneficial for multiple parties to begin filing FOIA requests at government agencies with leftist agendas? As in overload them from many, many angles?

    Just a thought.

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