FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2018)

FOIA News: OIP Director Interviewed

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Taking point on FOIA

By Chase Gunter, FCW, Oct. 15, 2018

The number of Freedom of Information Act requests is at an all-time high. While the figures for this year are yet to be released, Melanie Pustay, director of the Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy, predicted the year's total for fiscal year 2018 is "going to be near a million."

"Just as more information's available, people want more," she said. "I think it's just an information-hungry age, and people are using FOIA, which I think is a great thing because it's designed to be used. It just makes challenges for the agencies to satisfy demand."

Read more here.

FOIA News: Federal judge claims State Dept misled court on Clinton records

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

Judge complains he was lied to by feds in Clinton email suit, then retreats

Josh Gerstein, Politico, Oct. 12, 2018

A federal judge complained Friday that he was lied to by the State Department in a suit related to Hillary Clinton's private email server, but he later backed off his claim, saying he may have been mistaken.

At a hearing on a Freedom of Information Act case about talking points related to the Benghazi attack, Judge Royce Lamberth complained that officials told the court that they had completed searching the agency's records for information on the topic even though they knew that Clinton and other officials had used private email accounts for official business.

"The State Department told me it had produced all the records," Lamberth complained. "That was not true at the time....It was not true. It was a lie."

Justice Department attorney Robert Prince repeatedly interrupted, denying the judge's claim.

"It was not a lie, your honor," Prince said during the tense exchange. He went on to say that while the State Department had not immediately revealed the internal effort to recover Clinton's email, it did search those messages soon after receiving them.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Forbes recaps Exemption 4 case

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

IRS Keeps Percentages Paid Private Collection Companies Secret

By Peter J Reilly, Forbes, Oct. 10, 2018

It would be interesting to know what the split is when a private collection company convinces a delinquent taxpayer to pay up. There is a belief common in some circles, that private businesses do everything better than government does.  Well, when it comes to collecting delinquent taxes, it seems like Congress wants to reinforce that belief. Back in the nineties, Congress made it illegal for the IRS to evaluate people whose job it is to collect delinquent taxes based on how much they collect.  More recently the IRS has been required by Congress to hire private collection companies to contact delinquent taxpayers.  The companies get a percentage of what they collect.  Scott Hodes wanted to know what percentages companies the companies get.  The IRS won't tell him.

Read more here.

Copy of court decision here.

FOIA News: New regulations at CIGIE and Presidio Trust

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

The Presidio Trust published a final rule implementing revised FOIA regulations in today’s issue of the Federal Register. The revisions take into account public comments received earlier this year, as well as changes required by the OPEN Government Act of 2007 and the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. The new regulations are effective November 15, 2018.

Last week, in the October 3, 2018 issue of the Federal Register, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency published its own interim final rule amending the agency’s FOIA regulations in line with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 and the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016. Public comments will be accepted until November 2, 2018.

FOIA News: CrossFit, Inc. Files FOIA Suit To Compel NIH Foundation, CDC Foundation Transparency On Donors

FOIA News (2018)Kevin SchmidtComment

CrossFit, Inc. Files FOIA Suit To Compel NIH Foundation, CDC Foundation Transparency On Donors

Crossfit, Inc. Press Release, Oct. 4, 2018

CrossFit, Inc. announced today that it has filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel the release of emails from the Foundation for the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Foundation) and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH Foundation) concerning their legally-mandated transparency reports and the concealment of information about the donations both entities receive. The nonprofit U.S. Right to Know is also a plaintiff.

"During a health crisis, a country naturally turns to its national health institutions. And yet, instead of responding effectively to the problems of type-two diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, liver disease, opioid addiction and other chronic diseases, to name just a few, the NIH and CDC have been embroiled in numerous, high profile ethical scandals involving the very industries that have contributed to our Nation's chronic disease and opioid epidemics," the complaint asserts. "Concomitant with those scandals, the CDC Foundation and NIH Foundation have failed to comply with their legal transparency requirements, engaging in opaque partnerships with opioid manufacturers, soda companies, the NFL, and other corporations that represent major and direct conflicts of interest for any institution purported to care for the public's health."

Read more here.

FOIA News: Kavanugh's FOIA decision on polygraphs draws scrutiny

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

A False Charge on Polygraphs

By Theodore Kupper, Nat’l Review, Sept. 28, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh was asked during yesterday’s hearing if he would take a polygraph test. He replied that he would do whatever the Judiciary Committee asked him to, but noted that polygraphs are inadmissible in federal court because they are “unreliable.” That fact is not in dispute, but it generated controversy anyway: A number of journalists and observers pointed to Sack v. Department of Defense, a 2016 case for which Kavanaugh wrote the opinion, as evidence that he had flip-flopped on the issue. 

Read more here.

FOIA News: Reminder - Chief FOIA Officers Council Meeting on Oct. 4

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

The National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of Government Information Services published a notice for the next meeting of the Chief FOIA Officers Council in yesterday’s issue of the Federal Register. The meeting will be held on Thursday, October 4, 2018, from 10am to 12pm. Attendees must register no later than October 2, at 5pm. This meeting is open to the public.

FOIA News: New York Times Sues FCC for Allegedly Hiding Net Neutrality Comment Records

FOIA News (2018)Kevin SchmidtComment

NYT sues FCC, says it hid evidence of Russia meddling in net neutrality repeal

By Jon Brodkin, Ars Technia, Sept. 21, 2018

The New York Times has sued the Federal Communications Commission over the agency's refusal to release records that the Times believes might shed light on Russian interference in the net neutrality repeal proceeding.

The Times made a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request in June 2017 for FCC server logs related to the system for accepting public comments on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality rules. The FCC refused to provide the records, telling the Times that doing so would jeopardize the privacy of commenters and the effectiveness of the agency's IT security practices and that fulfilling the records request would be overly burdensome.

Read more here.