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FOIA News: OIP Director Encourages Agency Cooperation With Requesters

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Top FOIA official: Give agencies a hand in ‘massive search’ for documents

By Jory Heckman, Federal News Radio, June 7, 2016

One of government’s leading officials on the Freedom of Information Act says agencies need more open channels of communication with members of the public seeking government records.

Melanie Pustay, the director of the Office of Information Policy at the Justice Department, said agency FOIA officers need to do more to break down the barriers of communication that exist between government and those filing requests for information.

“It is not up to the requester to understand the records system of the agency. Obviously that is what the job of the agency official is — is to know what records we have, to be able to relay that to the requester, and then kind of together work on a plan for managing a request, particularly a really big request,” Pustay said Friday at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

FOIA, which became law 50 years ago, came under fire in March when a panel of government transparency officials described the obstacles that requesters experience when communicating with agency FOIA officers.

One recurring frustration OIP has heard from the requester community is that agencies won’t correspond with them via email, even if they request it.

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