FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2017)

FOIA News: FOIA requests top 800k in FY 2017, according to DOJ data

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

According to data entered on DOJ's website FOIA.gov, the federal government received 818,275 FOIA requests in fiscal year (FY) 2017 -- an increase of 29,506 requests (or 3.7 percent) from fiscal year 2016, when the government received 788,769 requests.

The agencies receiving the largest number of requests were the Department of Homeland Security (366,036), Department of Justice (82,088), National Archives and Records Administration (60,337), Department of Defense (55,198), and Health and Human Services (34,978).  In sum, these five agencies received 598,637 requests, which accounts for 73 percent of all requests received by all agencies during the fiscal year.

Of the 15 cabinet agencies, the Department of State and the Department of Veterans Affairs experienced the steepest decreases in requests over the past fiscal year.  State received 20,276 fewer requests (a 72 percent decrease), while Veterans Affairs received 10,273 fewer requests (a 30 percent decrease).  By contrast, the sharpest increases in requests received by cabinet agencies were experienced by Education (19 percent), DHS (12 percent), and Energy (12 percent).

DOJ's Office of Information Policy is expected to shortly release a detailed summary of all agency FY 2017 annual reports. 

FOIA News: State Dep't releases Huma Abedin emails found on Weiner's computer

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

State Department releases emails from computer Huma Abedin shared with Anthony Weiner

By Brent D. Griffiths, Politico, Dec. 29, 2017

The State Department on Friday released 2,800 work-related emails from Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, that were found by the FBI on the laptop computer of Abedin’s husband, disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York.

Five of the messages from Abedin were marked classified, like numerous other emails that were sent or received by Clinton or her aides then deemed classified by the State Department in the process of preparing them for public release in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits. Friday’s batch of emails is connected to a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative group that is seeking access to work messages Abedin sent from a personal email account.

Read more here.

FOIA News: CFPB FOIA policy declared improper

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Will My Confidential CID Information Be Released by the CFPB? It’s Far from Certain

By Nicholas Gess & Charles Horn, Nat'l Review, Dec. 29, 2017

A recently published opinion of the US District Court for the District of Columbia creates some uncertainty as to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) authority to protect information provided to it pursuant to a civil investigative demand (CID). In his opinion in Franks v. CFPB, Judge Christopher Cooper rejected most of the arguments made by a plaintiff’s class action firm seeking information gathered by the CFPB pursuant to a CID in an enforcement investigation. But, he granted summary judgment to the plaintiff and ordered the CFPB to review its decision to withhold certain information that had been provided “voluntarily” pursuant to the CID.

Read more here.

FOIA News: DHS Sued for Record Concerning Expedited Removal Procedures

FOIA News (2017)Ryan MulveyComment

DHS Hit With FOIA Suit Over Expedited Removal Procedures

Tiffany Hu, Law360, Dec. 20, 2017

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is being sued under the Freedom of Information Act for documents explaining its procedures and policies concerning expedited removal of people suspected of being undocumented immigrants, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in California federal court by a nonprofit investigative journalism group.

The Center for Investigative Reporting, which publishes the news site and radio program “Reveal,” accused the DHS of failing to release records it had requested pertaining to the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 . . .

Read more here (subscription required).

FOIA News: Feds Hit With FOIA Suit For Tribal Leadership Dispute Docs

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Feds Hit With FOIA Suit For Tribal Leadership Dispute Docs

By Adam Lidgett, Law360, Dec. 20, 2017

Seeking information regarding a Timbisha Shoshone Tribe leadership row, the Indian Law Resource Center filed a lawsuit Tuesday urging a D.C. federal judge to force the federal government to turn over records that it said were either improperly kept from the organization or redacted. 

The Freedom of Information Act suit was lobbed against the Office of Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, Pacific Regional Office of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Solicitor of the DOI.

Read more here (subscription required).

FOIA News: DOJ-OIP Announces Upcoming Training Dates for Federal Employees

FOIA News (2017)Ryan MulveyComment

OIP Announces Upcoming Training Dates

Dep't of Justice, Office of Info. Pol'y, Dec. 18, 2017

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 experienced FOIA professionals and FOIA managers. 

We are pleased to announce the training courses and dates for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018, which are also available on OIP’s new Eventbrite page(link is external)

  • FOIA for Attorneys and Access Professionals
    January 16-17, 2018
    April 24-25, 2018
    June 26-27, 2018
    July 24-25, 2018
  • Advanced FOIA Seminar
    February 20, 2018
    May 9, 2018
  • Continuing FOIA Education
    April 26, 2018
    July 26, 2018
  • Introduction to the FOIA
    May 29, 2018
  • FOIA Litigation Seminar
    June 28, 2018

Read more here.

FOIA News: NTSB Proposed Revisions to FOIA Regulations

FOIA News (2017)Ryan MulveyComment

The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") published an interim final rule revising the agency's FOIA regulations in the December 12, 2017 issue of the Federal Register.  These proposed changes are intended to implement the Open Government Act of 2007, the Open FOIA Act of 2009, and the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.  The NTSB is accepting written comments on the interim final rule until February 12, 2018.

FOIA News: Did the FBI's Use of (b)(7)(E) Suggest It Considered Prosecuting FOIA Requesters?

FOIA News (2017)Ryan MulveyComment

It Looks Like The FBI Thought About Prosecuting FOIA Requesters After Influx of Automated Requests

Tim Cushing, TechDirt, Dec. 15, 2017

Emma Best of MuckRock has unearthed some disturbing details in an FBI response to an FOIA request: apparently the agency considered -- however briefly -- the investigation and prosecution of people filing requests.

The nature of the requests may shed some light on the FBI's thought process because the heavily-redacted email included in the response certainly doesn't. Each year, the FBI updates its Dead List-- the names of people the FBI has files on who have passed away. Death increases the chances of released files because this major life event tends to terminate investigations.

The FBI claims it can't find its updated Dead List. This seems odd, if not downright unbelievable, but the DOJ has backed the FBI's claim and FOIA requests for the latest copy are being rejected. No problem, said MuckRock. It went to work with an older version of the list which included 7,000 names.

Read more here.