FOIA Advisor

FOIA Focus (2018)

FOIA News: New technologies can improve agency search adequacy

FOIA Focus (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

Machine Learning Technology Can Help Agencies Handle New FOIA Request Standard

Jon Kerry-Tyerman, Law.com, Nov. 8, 2018

In October 2018, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled that “FOIA requests are not a game of Battleship. The requester should not have to score a direct hit on the records sought based on the precise phrasing of his request.” In an opinion which cites Summers v. Department of Justice and Bagwell v. Department of Justice, Cooper ordered the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an additional search of agency records in response to the Government Accountability Project’s FOIA request. The judge ordered a new meet-and-confer within two weeks of the ruling to “engage in a good faith effort to arrive at a reasonably limited set of additional search terms that rectify the under-inclusivity of the ‘ideological tests’ and ‘cellphone’ search terms without being too over-inclusive.”

Read more here (free subscription required).

FOIA News: OIP releases new guidelines for 2019 FOIA reports

FOIA Focus (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

New Guidelines Issued for 2019 Agency Chief FOIA Reports

Dep’t of Justice, Office of Info. Pol’y Blog, Sept. 24, 2018

Last week the Office for Information Policy issued guidelines for the timing and content of agency 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Reports.  The FOIA requires agency Chief FOIA Officers to report to the Attorney General on their performance in implementing the law.  Accordingly, since 2009, the Department of Justice has directed agency Chief FOIA Officers to “review all aspects of their agencies’ FOIA administration” and to report annually to the Department of Justice on the efforts undertaken “to improve FOIA operations and facilitate information disclosure at their agencies.”  

[. . .]

The 2019 Chief FOIA Officer Report Guidelines once again include separate reporting requirements for agencies depending on the number of FOIA requests received in the prior fiscal year.  For 2019, there are two sets of reporting requirements.  Agencies that received 50 requests or less in Fiscal Year 2017 are again required to provide a short narrative on their implementation of the DOJ’s FOIA Guidelines.  All other agencies receiving more than 50 requests have more extensive reporting requirements. 

Read more here.

FOIA News: DOJ-OIP announces 2019 training dates

FOIA Focus (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

New FOIA Training Dates for Fiscal Year 2019

Dep’t of Justice, OIP Blog, Sept. 12, 2018

OIP today announced 15 new dates for FOIA training courses during Fiscal Year 2019.  As part of its responsibility to encourage agency compliance with the FOIA, OIP offers a number of training opportunities throughout the year for agency FOIA professionals and individuals with FOIA responsibilities.  These courses have been designed to offer training opportunities for personnel from all stages of the FOIA workforce, from new hires to the experienced FOIA professionals or FOIA managers.  As Fiscal Year 2019 quickly approaches, we are pleased to announce the new training courses and dates for this upcoming fiscal year, which are also available on OIP’s Eventbrite page(link is external).

The new courses and dates for Fiscal Year 2019 are:

         Annual FOIA Report Refresher Training
         October 9, 2018

         Freedom of Information Act Litigation Seminar
         November 1, 2018

         Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act
         December 5, 2018

         Chief FOIA Officer Report Refresher Training
         December 11, 2018

         Best Practices Workshop
         January 10, 2019

         Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals
         January 15-16, 2019

         Advanced FOIA Seminar
         February 20, 2019

         Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals
         April 16-17, 2019

         Continuing FOIA Education
         April 24, 2019

         Advanced FOIA Seminar
         May 14, 2019

         Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act
         May 21, 2019

         Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals
         June 11-12, 2019

         FOIA Litigation Seminar
         June 25, 2019

         Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals
         July 23-24, 2019

         Best Practices Workshop
         August 13, 2019     

Read more here.

FOIA Focus: Update to Q&A with Ian Smith

FOIA Focus (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Nearly two years ago, this website published an interview with Ian Smith, whose job responsibilities then included submitting Freedom of Information Act requests for the Immigration Reform Law Institute.  Earlier this week, The Atlantic reported that Mr. Smith had recently resigned as a program analyst at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security following the revelation of emails connecting him to white-nationalist activists.  To our further surprise, The Atlantic referenced several portions of our interview of Mr. Smith.  Although The Atlantic did not believe it was necessary to contact us for comment, we wish to inform our readers that we have never been aware of Mr. Smith's activities, nor do we endorse the views of white nationalists.