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FOIA News: GSA political appointee delayed FOIA requests

FOIA NewsAllan BlutsteinComment

Obama Appointee Hid Details From Media On Extravagant Gov’t Conference

By Luke Rosiak, The Daily Caller, Sept. 29, 2016

One of President Barack Obama’s political appointees delayed release of embarrassing information related to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) infamous champagne-soaked employee “team-building” conference in Las Vegas in 2012, according to a newly released report by the agency’s Inspector General.

The withheld information included emails about massive employee bonuses, and videos, including one where GSA employees pretended to be monkeys. The agency punished the employee who told people that the videos were wasteful was demoted to GSA’s daycare center after speaking out.

Officials then invoked a false legal justification to stonewall a public information request for the videos for more than a year.

The usual process in federal agencies is to have a team of trained career civil servants handling Freedom of Information Act responses. But at GSA, a single political appointee, Special Adviser Bianca Oden reviewed all FOIA requests from journalists after career employees completed their redactions.

And on several of the most politically sensitive requests, she appeared to let them sit on her desk for nearly a year without taking any actions. The politicized control of the FOIAs began soon after GSA was embarrassed by reports on its wildly lavish conference, for which a GSA manager later went to jail.

Read more here.

 

FOIA News: More Clinton emails to be released before election

FOIA NewsAllan BlutsteinComment

State Dept. to process 3,000 pages of Clinton emails before election

The deal adds to the 'drip, drip, drip,' but many messages may come out just days in advance of Election Day.

By Josh Gerstein, Politico, Sept. 28, 2016

The State Department has agreed to process for public release in advance of the election almost 3,000 pages of Hillary Clinton's emails recovered by the FBI during their recently-closed investigation into Clinton's private server arrangement.

A federal judge previously ordered State to review 1,050 pages of the Clinton messages before the election. The deal that State and Vice News reporter Jason Leopold submitted to two other federal judges Wednesday will add 1,850 pages to those already scheduled for processing.

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The release of the records seems certain to provide more unwelcome "drip, drip, drip" for the Clinton campaign, but many of the messages could emerge so close to the election that they'll be caught up in the last-minute frenzy of coverage and back-to-back political events.

The new agreement calls for the releasable portion of the additional 1,850 pages to be made public on State's website on Nov. 3. The existing schedule, in a case brought by conservative group Judicial Watch, calls for processing sets of 350 pages for posting on each of three days: Oct. 7, Oct. 21 and Nov. 4.

Read more here

Court opinion issued Sept. 23, 2016

Court OpinionsAllan BlutsteinComment

Immigrant Def. Project v. DHS (S.D.N.Y.) -- ruling that the government failed to perform an adequate search because: (1) the search terms employed were in the plural form only, not singular; (2) the agency did not search for all records "related to" certain press releases; and (3) the agency did not assist plaintiffs to narrow their original request.  

Summaries of all opinions issued since April 2015 available here.

FOIA News: Deal nears to speed release of Hillary Clinton emails

FOIA NewsKevin SchmidtComment

Deal nears to speed release of Hillary Clinton emails

By Josh Gerstein, Politico, Sept. 26, 2016

A potential compromise is in the works that could result in more of Hillary Clinton emails recovered by the FBI being made public before the election.

Last week, a judge ordered the processing under the Freedom of Information Act of a relatively meager 1,050 pages of the FBI-found emails before Election Day. Government lawyers say there are about 5,600 Clinton, work-related emails the FBI turned over to State Department beginning in July, although some are duplicates of records already processed and released.

However, during a court hearing in a separate FOIA lawsuit Monday, another judge pushed for a deal that could accelerate the release of those messages, perhaps three-fold in advance of the election.

Read more here.