Environmental Organization Accuses Trump Administration of Employee Censorship

By Yessenia Funes May 24, 2017

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. against the Department of Interior, Department of Energy, Department of State and the EPA yesterday (May 23). The environmental organization is asking for access to public records that allegedly show the Trump administration censored federal employees from using words or phrases relating to “climate change” in agency communications.

The lawsuit, Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Department of the Interior et al, says that the Center filed Freedom of Information Act requests earlier this year to see if any communications attempted to censor employees from using such language. However, none of the above defendants provided any records or date of when they would supply the records.

The suit states:

Defendants are unlawfully withholding the records by failing to search for and provide all responsive records to the Center. The defendants’ failure to comply with FOIA by releasing all records related to the censorship of climate change-related words and phrases is contrary to FOIA and undermines FOIA’s policy of government transparency.

The Center has also filed similar requests with agencies not listed in the lawsuit: the Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Reports started to leak within the first week of the Trump presidency that his administration was attempting to remove online mentions of climate change, as well as keeping certain agencies from issuing public statements, but employees turned to the media via anonymous sources.

Now, the Center for Biological Diversity wants to see how far these orders actually went.