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FOIA News: FOIA still relevant, says former counsel to FOIA's "founding father"

Allan BlutsteinComment

At 51, FOIA is still relevant, maybe more than ever

By Michael R. Lemov, The Baltimore Sun, June 27, 2017

Next week, the Freedom of Information Act will be 51 years old. July 4th marks the birthday of the law that, for the first time in U.S. history, gave all persons a sweeping right to obtain government records. FOIA may be middle aged, but it is still very relevant. In fact, the advent of the Trump administration gives the law new immediacy. It can be used to open government records (potentially even memoranda to and from the White House) thus assisting citizens in understanding and acting on their lawfulness and policy implications.

This is important because President Donald Trump has, in the first five months of his administration, pushed the limits of executive power. He has used unilateral actions or executive orders to override national laws and policy in areas including immigration limitations, environmental protection and the enactment of updated consumer and worker safety rules.

Read more here.  

FOIA News: Coalition Urges Congress to Reject New FOIA Exemption

FOIA News (2017)Kevin SchmidtComment

From the letter:

On behalf of the undersigned groups, we urge you to oppose the inclusion of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) proposal to alter the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in FY 2018’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Pentagon’s proposed language1 would undermine the FOIA, creating an unnecessary and overbroad secrecy provision at odds with FOIA’s goal of transparency and accountability to the public. The DoD’s proposal to exempt from disclosure “information on military tactics, techniques, and procedures, and of military rules of engagements,” would create a carve-out to the FOIA for much of the information and documents created by the Pentagon, the largest executive branch agency with the largest discretionary budget.

While we acknowledge that this exemption language is narrower than the two previous proposals by DoD, the provision remains unnecessary to protect the effectiveness of military operations. These fundamental changes to FOIA were proposed without the robust consideration and input of the committees of jurisdiction over FOIA and FOIA-related issues. Because of their potential long-lasting effects on the public’s access to information, we urge you to reject this proposal.

Read the full letter here.

Signatories:

  • ACORN8
  • American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Society of News Editors
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Alternative Newsmedia
  • Association of Research Libraries
  • Campaign for Liberty
  • Cause of Action Institute
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
  • Defending Rights & Dissent
  • Downsize DC
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Freedom Works
  • Government Accountability Project
  • Government Information Watch
  • Human Rights First
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War
  • Liberty Coalition
  • National Security Archives
  • National Taxpayers Union
  • OpenTheGovernment
  • Peace Action
  • Physicians for Human Rights
  • Project On Government Oversight
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Society of Professional Journalists
  • Sunlight Foundation
  • Taxpayer Protection Alliance
  • Washington Office on Latin America

ICYMI, Chief FOIA Officers Council to meet on July 27

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Chief FOIA Officers Council Meeting Scheduled for July 27

OGIS Blog, June 21, 2017

OGIS and the Department of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice are happy to announce that the next meeting of the Chief FOIA Officers Council will be held on Thursday, July 27th from 10 am to noon. You can register to join the audience in the William G. McGowan Theater beginning on July 26. You can also plan on watching the livestream via the National Archives’ YouTube Channel.

This meeting will be the third meeting of the Chief FOIA Officer’s Council, which was created by the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.  The Chief FOIA Officers’ Council is intended to develop recommendations to increase agency compliance and efficiency and to share agency best practices and innovative approaches.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Enviros Hit DOI With FOIA Suit Over Coal Communications

FOIA News (2017)Kevin SchmidtComment

Enviros Hit DOI With FOIA Suit Over Coal Communications

By Kat Sieniuc, Law360, June 20, 2017

The Center for Biological Diversity on Tuesday hit the federal government with a lawsuit in D.C. district court, accusing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management of withholding public records related to the Trump administration’s decision to end a moratorium on new coal mining leases on federal lands and alleging officials might have held secret meetings with the coal industry.

Read more here (subscription required).