The Times-Picayune is still waiting for FEMA to fill its FOIA request filed on Oct. 5, 2005. Mark Schleifstein requested expedited delivery of the records. He wrote, "The delayed disclosure of information necessary to improve future initial responses to hurricanes could threaten the life and physical safety of people living in the New Orleans area." If the loss of life isn't important enough to justify an expedited response, what is?
Last week, I got my annual letter from FEMA letting me know someone deep within the federal bureaucracy is "making an earnest and diligent effort" to fulfill the request for public records I filed on Oct. 5, 2005.
Among other things, I had asked for reports created by so-called "Rapid Needs Assessment Teams" that outlined the type and amount of help needed in communities affected by the storms -- food, water, housing, medical assistance. I sought to better understand the causes of FEMA's historically botched delivery of disaster recovery aid.
You may or may not be familiar with the intracacies of the federal Freedom of Information Act, but trust me on this: The public's right to access to government records lies at the core of what distinguishes freedom from tyranny. A government operating in secret is, by definition, doing citizens wrong.