FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2015-16)

FOIA News: Nuclear Regulatory Commission issues final FOIA regs

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has amended its FOIA regulations to incorporate changes made by the FOIA Improvement Act off 2016, according to a notice published in today's Federal Register.  The NRC bypassed the normal notice and comment period, claiming that "good cause" existed for waiver, i.e., comments were either "impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest." 

FOIA News: OGIS publishes assessment of DHS Privacy Office

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

OGIS Releases Compliance Assessment of DHS FOIA Policy Office

OGIS Blog, Dec. 28, 2016

We are happy to announce the release of our latest FOIA compliance assessment – the Privacy Office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This office, which is led by the agency’s Chief Privacy & FOIA Officer, issues FOIA guidance to DHS’s components, monitors component performance, and issues required reports. Like our previously released assessments, this report is based on interviews of key FOIA staff and a review of FOIA policy and documents. What makes this report a little different is that it also includes observations made during our compliance assessments of the FOIA programs at six DHS components. We took this approach in recognition of the unique role that the Chief Privacy & FOIA Officer has in leading DHS’s FOIA program.

Read more here.  

FOIA News: Committee to Protect Journalists on the "Transition to Trump"

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

Transition to Trump: What Obama's Freedom of Information legacy means for press

By Alexandra Ellerbeck, Committee to Protect Journalists, Dec. 27, 2016

Obama's decision to keep the report classified is at odds with his pledge to run "the most open and transparent [administration] in history." On his first day in office, Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies urging them to embrace transparency. CPJ and civil rights groups have documented how, in the following years, his administration aggressively prosecuted leakerssurveilled journalists in leak investigations, used the state secrets privilege to suppress evidence in courts about torture and the government's no fly list, and set a record for the use of legal exceptions in responding to freedom of information act requests. In 2013, CPJ published a special report, "The Obama Administration and the Press," that was critical of the administration's record on transparency.

With a new administration taking power under a president-elect whose actions so far--including his refusal to release his tax returnsditching the press pool on occasion after being elected and, by late December, not holding a press conference since his electoral victory--run counter to a transparent administration, journalists and press freedom advocates said they are concerned about access and commitments to transparency.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Sunlight Foundation comments on “release to one, release to all”

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

A “release to one, release to all” policy for FOIA will serve the public interest

Sunlight Foundation, Dec. 23, 2016

Dear Director Pustay,

We welcome the opportunity to comment upon the Department’s proposed “release-to-one, release-to-all” policy for fulfilling requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. The Sunlight Foundation strongly supports the proposal overall, with some specific concerns regarding individual components in the draft regarding overly broad exemptions and exceptions.

As a decade-old nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to using journalism, advocacy and technology to improving the transparency and accountability of our politics and government, we see great potential for this approach to improve public knowledge of the operations of government, reduce the costs of administering one of the core sunshine laws of the nation, and reduce asynchronies in the disclosure of government data that are providing an unintended subsidy to industry.

Read more from the letter to DOJ OIP here.

FOIA News: Additional agencies revising FOIA regs

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Ahead of the New Year's deadline mandated by the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, six more agencies have promulgated interim or final amendments to their FOIA regulations -- all of which appear in the December 27th edition of the Federal Register.

  • The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has issued an  interim final rule with a public comment period extending through February 27, 2017. 
  • The Federal Open Market Committee also has issued an interim final rule with a public comment period extending through February 27, 2017. 
  • The Department of Energy has issued final rule effective December 27, 2016, which did not invite public comments.
  • The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council has issued an  interim final rule implementing changes required by the FOIA Improvement Act that does not invite public comments.  The Council expects to conduct a review and further updating of its regulations in the next year based on recent guidance issued by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy on agency FOIA regulations. 
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has issued a final rule effective December 27, 2016, which did not invite public comments.   
  • The Postal Regulatory Commission  has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking with a comment period extending through January 26, 2017.

FOIA News: USAID finalizes new FOIA regulations

FOIA News (2015-16)Ryan MulveyComment

The U.S. Agency for International Development published a final rule implementing new FOIA regulations in today's issue of the Federal Register.  Most of the changes are intended to bring the agency into compliance with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.  USAID received four comments.  Some of the more significant recommendations adopted from these comments include new fee category definitions for educational institutions and representatives of the news media, further information about the role of the FOIA Public Liaison and the Office of Government Information Services, and the introduction of a "substantial interest" standard for the consultation process.  USAID's rule is effective December 27, 2016.