Former OMB Official and current Harvard professor Cass Sunstein writes in Bloomberg View that the 25 year limit proposed on Exemption 5 material in the Senate's pending FOIA legislation is a bad view because it would not allow officials to discuss policy proposals in private.
While Mr. Sunstein is free to have his opinion, his opinion is wrong. First, the proposal is not for an immediate release of the material while the policy is being debated it is for a limit to the exemption of 25 years. So, any release of information under this propsal will not be of information that is fresh.
Further, the Presidential Records Act already limits the amount of time material can be withheld. In fact, many records that would be protected under the Exemption 5 privileges are already open and on line in the Presidential libraries of Presidents that have been out of office more recently than the last 25 years.
Additionally, I question the entire reason for protecting deliberative process privilege information in the first place. It is to protect government officials from having their opinons and ideas put in the public eye before they become official government positions. But has this stopped government agencies from making bad decisions during the time the FOIA has been around? No. From Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra to the Iraq war and the latest fiasco at the IRS, it seems to me that a little sunlight at these agencies may have helped the decision making policy and protected Americans. Protecting bureacrats and appointees who are out of touch with the real world shouldn't be the objective of the FOIA. And this proposal isn't even for immediate release of the opinions - it protects them for 25 years.
I believe America deserves government leaders who are not afraid to make their ideas known; even if they are not eventually adopted. Didn't the debates centering around the Constitution over 200 years ago show us this?
Cass Sunstein was supposed to make government transparency better during his time in the Obama adminsitration. He let down the President, and his opinion on this issue continues to let down those who want to see a better day for government transparency.