FOIA Advisor


Q&A: No Money No Problems?

Q&AAllan BlutsteinComment

Q.  I have been denied credit based on erroneous information gathered by "Clarity Services" in Florida and "Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions Bureau LLC, Riskview Consumer Inquiry Department," in Atlanta, GA.  I want to see their documentation regarding my alleged repossession, garnishments, and judgments they claim I had.

A.  The above-referenced entities are private companies and thus are not subject to freedom of information laws.  If you wish to dispute your credit report, you might consider the following guidance from the Federal Trade Commission. 

FOIA News: Judicial Watch asks judge to release videos in Clinton email case

FOIA NewsKevin SchmidtComment

Judicial Watch asks judge to release videos in Clinton email case

By Josh Gerstein, Politico, Dec. 5, 2016

A conservative group that played a key role in legal battles over access to Hillary Clinton's emails is asking a federal judge to release videos of depositions top Clinton aides and other State Department officials gave in connection with the litigation over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Judicial Watch filed a motion Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, asking him to unseal the testimony in light of the fact that the presidential election is over and the arguments against release seemed to be based on the videos becoming fodder in the White House race. Transcripts of the testimony were released soon after it was given, but the recordings have never been published.

"The sole reason for sealing the recordings in the first place was to avoid their misuse during the 2016 campaign season. Now that the election is over that reason no longer exists," Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha wrote. "The release of the recordings will not only allow the public to better understand Secretary Clinton’s email practices, it will also provide the public with a more complete picture of the discovery taken in this case."

Read more here.

Court opinions issued Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2016

Court OpinionsAllan BlutsteinComment

Dec. 1, 2016

Competitive Enter. Inst. v. U.S. Dep't of State (E.D. Va.) -- finding that agency properly redacted communications concerning U.N. Climate Conference in Paris pursuant to Exemption 5 (deliberative process privilege), with the exception of certain portions of two documents consisting of merely factual statements.

Ocasio v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- ruling that DOJ's Office of Inspector General properly relied on Exemption 7(C) to categorically withhold all records of agency's investigation into FBI's response to plaintiff's complaint of criminal conduct by a third party.

Nov. 30, 2016

Argus Leader Media v. USDA (D.S.D.) -- following a bench trial, concluding that the agency failed to carry its burden under Exemption 4 to prove that disclosure of certain "food stamp" data would cause substantial competitive harm to individual grocery stores participating in the agency's program.  

Summaries of all opinions issued since April 2015 available here.

FOIA News: Detroit Free Press petitions SCOTUS on mugshots

Allan BlutsteinComment

Mug Shots Are Not Secret Records, Detroit Paper Tells Supreme Court

New petition urges justices to reverse Sixth Circuit ruling that exempts booking photos from FOIA.

By Marcia Coyle,  The Nat'l Law J., Dec. 2, 2016

The Detroit Free Press is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a court decision that restricts public access to the mug shots of federal criminal defendants.

Booking photos provide an "important window" into the government's exercise of its police powers, the media outlet said in its petition in Detroit Free Press v. U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in July ruled that Congress intended to exempt mug shots from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act because of "possible embarrassment and the existence of the internet."

The full Sixth Circuit, in its 9-7 decision, said booking photos fell within an exemption of the public-records law that allows law enforcement records to be kept secret if public disclosure “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invocation of personal privacy.”

Read more here.

FOIA News: Here are the journalists fighting for federal public records

FOIA NewsKevin SchmidtComment

Here are the journalists fighting for federal public records

By Benjamin Mullin and Alexios Mantzarlis, Poynter, Dec. 2, 2016

Media executives are fond of making big speeches about the importance of press freedom. But which organizations are actually spending time and money on it?

A new, searchable list from The FOIA project, a initiative from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, provides a partial answer. Earlier this week, TRAC published The News Media List, a sortable readout of the news organizations and journalists that have filed lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act.

To compile the list, staffers at The FOIA Project spent a year combing through its database of nearly 9,000 plaintiff names for cases filed in federal courts since 2001. They flagged cases with media plaintiffs to come up with an initial list that includes 369 individual journalists and news organizations.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Judge rules against Center for Public Integrity in cybersecurity lawsuit

FOIA NewsKevin SchmidtComment

Judge rules against Center for Public Integrity in cybersecurity lawsuit

Center for Public Integrity, Nov. 29, 2016

A U.S. District Court Judge has denied the Center for Public Integrity’s request for access to a taxpayer-funded study about cybersecurity vulnerabilities at the Federal Election Commission.

The court’s decision comes more than 13 months after the Center for Public Integrity sued the FEC for access to the security study, which the FEC commissioned following a Center investigation revealing how Chinese hackers infiltrated the FEC’s computer systems.

The 44-page document — known within the FEC as the “NIST study” — in part provides recommendations on how to fix the FEC’s problems and bring its computer systems in line with specific National Institute of Standards and Technology computer security protocols. The study cost $199,500 to produce.


The Center for Public Integrity is reviewing its options, including whether to appeal the decision last week from U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta.

Read more here.