FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Recap of FOIA Advisory Committee meeting

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Advisory Committee Puts Forward Unanimous Recommendations to Improve FOIA

Office of Gov't Info. Serv. Blog,  Jan. 17, 2018

On January 16, 2018 the FOIA Advisory Committee voted unanimously* in support of several recommendations to improve the administration of FOIA. Members of the three Subcommittees – Proactive Disclosure, Efficiency and Resources, and Searches – spent a little over a year researching issues and developing these recommendations.

*  *  *

During the meeting, the Committee discussed and voted to support four proposals from the Proactive Disclosures Subcommittee. The aim of the proposals is to:

  • increase the release of agency FOIA logs in a way that is most useful to improving understanding of agency records and how the law is being used;
  • provide agencies with criteria for setting priorities for proactive disclosure;
  • give agencies a guide to categories of records that should be regularly released based on the ease of making them available and their importance for understanding the government’s actions; and
  • address requirements that documents on agency’s FOIA websites are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Read more here

FOIA News: CREW & FFRF sue HUD over FOIA requests concerning White House Bible Study, Visits to Museum of the Bible

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

Atheist and Federal Watchdog Groups File Lawsuit Over Ben Carson FOIA Rejections

Hemant Mehta, Patheos, Jan. 18, 2018

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) are suing the Department of Housing and Urban Development, led by Dr. Ben Carson, for denying their multiple Freedom of Information Act requests that may have cast a negative light on the agency and Carson in particular.

For example, the groups wanted to learn more about Carson’s involvement in the White House’s weekly Bible study sessions which first came to light last August. Were taxpayer-funded resources used for these sessions? It’s a legitimate question. But for some reason, whenever they asked HUD for information about these sessions, they couldn’t get the materials they requested.

Read more here.


FOIA News: State Dep't extends efforts to reduce FOIA backlog

FOIA News (2018)Allan Blutstein1 Comment

Tillerson’s ‘FOIA surge’ extended in another blow to morale 

The State Department has extended by 90 days a tedious push to clear a public records backlog that has pulled in some longtime employees "against their will."

By Nahal Toes, Politico, Jan. 18, 2018

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is extending by 90 days his unusual effort to clear the State Department’s huge backlog of public records requests—a project that has saddled some career diplomats and civil servants with mundane clerical tasks that they call demoralizing and possibly even designed to make them quit.

The decision was announced in a Jan. 5 email to State officials that was shown to POLITICO. It comes as conservative groups such as Judicial Watch continue to press the department to release more of former Secretary of State’s Hillary Clinton’s emails under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.

Read more here.

FOIA News: DOJ releases its 2017 annual report

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

The Department of Justice's annual FOIA report for fiscal year 2017 is now available on the Office of Information Policy's website.   Here are some top line numbers:

Requests received: 82,088

Requests processed: 79,390

Backlogged requests:  12,863

Appeals received: 3,192

Appeal processed: 3,270

Backlogged appeals:  172

Litigations costs:  $13.6 million

Agencies were required to submit their annual FOIA reports to OIP by November 20, 2017.  

FOIA News: MuckRock Discusses the Value of CIA Exemption Codes

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

Guerrilla FOIAfare: How to use exemption codes to find the most interesting documents hidden in the CIA archives

Emma Best, MuckRock, Jan. 17, 2018

As many researchers have learned over the years, government agencies in general and the Central Intelligence Agency in particular often apply exemptions very broadly, and, at times, in ways that border on the ridiculousExemption codes, on the other hand, can still be useful to researchers, journalists, and curious citizens - by searching for these codes, clever researchers can find documents that discuss war plans, cryptography, WMDs, and diplomatically damaging information.

Read more here.