FOIA Advisor

Court opinion issued Aug. 14, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Djenasevic v. EOUSA (D.D.C.) -- determining that: (1) Executive Office for United State Attorneys and Drug Enforcement Administration performed reasonable searches for records concerning plaintiff, a convicted heroin dealer; (2) EOUSA properly withheld records pursuant to Exemption 3 (grand jury), 5 (deliberative process privilege), 6, and 7(C); (3) DEA properly withheld records pursuant to Exemption 7(D), 7(E), and 7(F).

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 available here.


FOIA News: Secret Service sued for Trump Jr.'s India trip docs

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Former Bay Area State Senator Sues Feds For Trump Jr. Travel Records

KPIX 5, Aug. 14, 2018

San Francisco Ethics Commission vice chair Quentin Kopp has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service for their failure to comply to a Freedom of Information Act request regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s trip to India in February, according to a news release.

Kopp, a former state senator and superior court judge, planned a news conference Tuesday morning on the steps of the federal courthouse in San Francisco announcing the suit.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Former OMB Director and Indiana Governor argues too much "transparency"

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

Government 'transparency' has gone too far

Mitch Daniel, Wash. Post, Aug. 13, 2018

Dave Eggers’s 2013 novel “The Circle” depicts a world where demands for “openness” annihilate privacy and personal autonomy, creating a dystopian nightmare. Public officials in the tale try to outdo each other in going “clear” by wearing body cameras and microphones every waking moment. For most readers, the book is farfetched science fiction, but for those active in public life, Eggers’s conception doesn’t seem all that implausible.

It’s hard to determine when too much of a good thing becomes truly too much. And the more laudable the goal, the harder it generally is to reel in the excess, because any suggested retrenchment is viewed as an abandonment of the goal itself. At the risk of being misconstrued, I venture the heretical thought that we have overshot in the pursuit of governmental “openness” and “transparency.”

There’s no question that American government at all levels is better off for the open-door and open-record reforms of the past half-century. Knowing that the public is watching, public officials generally behave more responsibly in the conduct of their duties.

Read more here.

[ALB comment:  The email ship sailed away at least 25 years go.]

FOIA News: End of federal fiscal year 2018 approaching

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

As of today, there are only thirty-three (33) business days left in fiscal year 2018, which concludes on September 30, 2018.  Many federal agencies will soon shift their focus from processing incoming requests to pending requests only in order to reduce their backlogs.  If an agency receives any request on or after August 16, 2018, that triggers a 10-business-day extension (that is, for "unusual circumstances"), that request will not be deemed backlogged until fiscal year 2019.  Simpler requests that are submitted on or after August 30, 2018, also will not be considered backlogged until fiscal year 2019.  

FOIA News: NARA announces first meeting of new FOIA advisory committee

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

The National Archives and Records Administration published a notice in today's issue of the Federal Register announcing the first meeting of the new FOIA advisory committee term on September 6, 2018, from 10:00am to 1:00pm.  The meeting will involve the introduction of new members, a review of upcoming meetings, and brainstorming of topics for the subcommittees.

The public is welcome to attend, but must register before 5:00pm on September 4, 2018.  Further details are available here.

Court opinions issued Aug. 9, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Dep't of Treasury (D.D.C.) -- ruling that agency properly invoked Exemption 1 to withhold letter exchanged between Bank of England and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

Milbrand v. U.S. Dep't of Labor (E.D. Mich.) -- finding that agency performed adequate search for business email addresses of state compliance officers, and the agency properly withheld business email address of federal compliance officers pursuant to Exemption 6. 

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 available here.

FOIA News: POTUS may "get involved" in FOIA for McCabe texts

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Trump threatens to 'get involved' in watchdog group's efforts to obtain McCabe text messages

By Avery Anapol, The Hill,  Aug. 11, 2018

President Trump on Saturday criticized the FBI for not turning over former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe’s text messages to right-leaning watchdog group Judicial Watch.

The group is pursuing the texts through Freedom of Information Act requests to the Justice Department,  seeking communications and text messages from a number of current and former FBI officials.

The president threatened in a misspelled tweet to “get involved” in the effort, and warned the FBI not to “destroy” the items.

Read more here.


Q&A: Virginia is for lovers?

Q&A (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q.  I submitted a FOIA request as a citizen of Virginia. Soon after, three people of the local government including the Board of Supervisor chairman contacted my employer to file a complaint. I received the information requested, but is it a violation of FOIA to harass and intimidate an individual by contacting their employer?

A.  The Virginia Freedom of Information Act does not address the unfortunate behavior you have described. Other state laws or local policies might apply, but you should confer with an attorney licensed in the Commonwealth for legal advice.   

P.S. The Virginia FOIA does not prevent you from submitting a follow-up FOIA request that seeks copies of the offenders emails about you (or any other topic of interest),  as well as their personnel files, work calendars, travel expenses, etc.

FOIA News: Commerce Department finalizes new FOIA regulations

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

The Department of Commerce published a final rule implementing new FOIA regulations in today's issue of the Federal Register.  The changes are intended to update agency FOIA processes, particularly in light of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.  Twenty-four public comments were received in response to the agency's February 6, 2018 proposed rule, of which twenty-three were deemed "not relevant."  The remaining comment's recommendations were accepted in full.  The new regulations are effective immediately.

FOIA News: Meet OGIS's New Deputy Director - Martha Murphy

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

OGIS Welcomes New Deputy Director

Nat'l Archives & Records Admin., FOIA Ombudsman, Aug. 8, 2018

We are very happy to announce that Martha Murphy has joined our staff as the office’s Deputy Director. Ms. Murphy will play a critical role in our ongoing work to resolve FOIA disputes, assess and improve agency compliance with the statute, and educate the public about FOIA.

Ms. Murphy has a broad range of experiences in FOIA – ranging from processing records for release, managing a successful FOIA program, and setting nationwide FOIA policy for agency records that are a part of the National Archives’ collection because of their permanent historical value. Most recently. Ms. Murphy was the FOIA Program Manager in Research Services at the National Archives. In this role, she led several high-profile efforts to provide public access to records, including the JFK Assassination Records Collection. Ms. Murphy also oversaw a staff that handles regular requests for a wide variety of records in the National Archives’ holdings.

Read more here.