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FOIA News: POTUS tweets might undermine FBI's "Glomar" response

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Trump's Tweets Could Undercut Feds' Silence in Public Records Case

In a FOIA case about the "Russia dossier," U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington is considering what President Trump may or may not know when he tweets.

By Cogan Schneier, Nat'l Law J.,  Nov. 17, 2017

The government’s so-called Glomar responses in a federal public records case in Washington could be undercut by the president’s tweeting habits.

The FBI is defending its refusal to either confirm or deny the existence of certain documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act suit against the bureau and other agencies. At a hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta struggled with whether the president’s tweets, which the government conceded are official statements, undercut that refusal.

The plaintiffs, Politico reporter Josh Gerstein and the James Madison Project, want the federal agencies to turn over a two-page synopsis they reportedly have on the claims in the “Russia dossier,” an unverified document that made claims about the president. Gerstein also seeks any determination by the agencies as to the validity of the dossier, and any records about what effort, if any, federal officials made to investigate the validity.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Litigants battle over national monument records

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Justice Department won't release national monument documents

By Keith Riddler, Associated Press, Nov. 16, 2017 

Documents possibly outlining legal justifications for President Donald Trump to shrink national monuments don't have to be provided to an Idaho environmental law firm because they're protected communications, federal officials say.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit from Advocates for the West seeking the information.

The environmental law firm filed a public records request for documents on the national monuments earlier this year, and the Justice Department released more than 60 pages in May.

The agency withheld 12 pages, however, contending they are protected by attorney-client privilege and intra-agency communication rules, making them exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.

Read more here.

FOIA News: A death in the FOIA family

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Jeffrey Richelson, FOIA Legend and National Security Expert, Dies at 67

By Matt Novak, Gizmodo, Nov. 14, 2017

Jeffrey T. Richelson wrote over a dozen books about national security, nuclear weapons, and agencies like the CIA and KGB—books that were often the product of incredible new revelations obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Richelson, a legend to FOIA advocates and anyone else with an interest in national security, died this past weekend at the age of 67.

Read more here.

FOIA News: NARA falsely claims it released Merrick Garland records in anticipation of his SCOTUS nomination

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

National Archives Commits a Supreme Error

By America Rising Squared, Nov. 13, 2017

Three years ago, the National Archives and Records Administration unveiled a majestic eagle as its new logo.  It has not taken long for the agency, like Icarus, to fly too close to the sun.

A few months after Donald Trump’s election dashed whatever hope Judge Merrick Garland still harbored to fill Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat, the National Archives and Records Administration submitted a report to the Attorney General that took credit for a seemingly remarkable feat:

Read more here.

Court opinions issued Nov. 9, 2017

Court Opinions (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Hardy v. ATF (D.D.C.) -- awarding plaintiff $20,095.95 in attorney's fees and costs for substantially prevailing in case against DOJ's Office of Inspector General, but not against ATF, and reducing award for its limited success and for time spent on certain non-compensable tasks. 

Brick v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- ruling that FBI's declarations were too sweeping and vague to permit review of agency's withholdings on 12 pages of records pursuant to Exemptions 3, 6, 7(C), and 7(E).

Summaries of all opinions issued since April 2015 available here