FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2015-16)

FOIA News: U.S. Trade Representative issues final FOIA regulations

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

After considering comments to its draft FOIA regulations, the United States Trade Representative issued final regulations that appear in today's Federal Register.  The amendments reflect "a comprehensive update" of the agency's regulations and describe "in plain language how to make a FOIA request to USTR and how the FOIA Office processes requests for records."  USTR's revised FOIA regulations are effective immediately.  

FOIA News: MuckRock: How we sued the CIA and (mostly) won

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

How we sued the CIA and (mostly) won

By Michael Morisy, MuckRock, Dec. 14, 2016

In June of 2014, we announced what was then our first lawsuit: we were suing the Central Intelligence Agency over access to the CREST database, as well as a variety of metadata regarding how that database is used.

CREST serves as the CIA’s vast database of declassified information, much of which dates back through the Cold War. It currently includes over 13 million pages of records.

We’re pleased that after a little over two years, our suit will result in greater public access to an important historical resource. That fight was led by the inimitable Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors, who represented us pro bono.

Read more here.

FOIA News: CoA Institute Sues CFPB for Anti-Arbitration Rule Docs

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

CoA Institute Sues CFPB for Anti-Arbitration Rule Docs

Cause of Action Institute, Dec. 13, 2016

Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) to provide records the agency used in formulating its rule to prohibit the use of mandatory binding arbitration clauses in financial services contracts.

In April 2016, CoA Institute filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request for records that would show how the agency conducted its study. Although CFPB produced some documents, the agency withheld a large number of responsive records and information. 

In September, 2016, CFPB issued a final determination, indicating the agency would withhold 1,877 pages of responsive records. CoA Institute appealed the CFPB’s determination and challenged each FOIA exemption the agency applied to the production. Last month, CFPB denied the appeal.

Read more here.

Read the complaint here.

FOIA News: VICE News sues FBI

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

VICE News sues FBI

By Jason Leopold, Vice News, Dec. 13, 2016

VICE News is suing the FBI, demanding the bureau release records related to its curious disclosures, behind-the-scenes actions, and apparent leaks in the days leading up to the U.S. presidential election.

The wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in conjunction with Ryan Shapiro, a doctoral candidate at MIT and research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Earlier this month, VICE News and Shapiro filed more than 50 FOIA requests with the FBI seeking documents about the bureau’s discussions regarding Donald Trump, along with other documents that would shed light on the FBI’s decision a week before the election to tweet newly posted records from a long-dormant Twitter account about Bill Clinton’s 2000 pardon of financier Marc Rich.

The pardon, a controversial decision by the former president, was investigated at the time by current FBI director James Comey while he was U.S. attorney.

Read more here.

FOIA News: 9th Circuit hears oral argument on USA Book

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

ACLU Can't See DOJ Snooping Strategy Docs, 9th Circ. Told

By Cara Bayles, Law360, Dec. 12, 2016

The Department of Justice told the Ninth Circuit on Monday that a lower court erred in granting the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for internal documents that spell out investigation strategies — including telephone tracking techniques — for prosecutors and staff, arguing such disclosures would violate work-product privilege.

One of the issues raised over the so-called USA Book to be released under the Freedom of Information Act suit was what, exactly, the publicly unavailable document is. DOJ attorney H. Thomas Byron III called it “a resource and reference developed by the Justice Department for prosecutors around the country,” and said that because the guidelines were intended for attorneys, they were subject to the work-product exemption under FOIA.

Read more here (registration required).    

FOIA News: Court orders White House official to preserve private email

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Judge issues rare order to preserve White House official's private email

By Josh Gerstein, Politico, Dec. 12, 2016

A federal judge has ordered the top science policy official at the White House to preserve all of his emails from a private account while a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit about the messages proceeds.

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler issued the order Monday, requiring Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren to load a thumb drive with all archived messages (including messages marked as deleted) from an account provided by his former employer, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

Read more here.

FOIA News: FOIA Advisor expands staff

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

FOIA Advisor is pleased to announce that attorney Ryan Mulvey has joined its staff, the organization's first expansion since launching in March 2015.  Mr. Mulvey serves as counsel to Cause of Action Institute, a D.C.-based public interest law firm, where he has concentrated on FOIA and information law issues since 2013.  He currently resides in London, England.  

Read Mr. Mulvey's full biography here

FOIA News: Border Patrol and IRS Sued for Stonewalling FOIA Requests on Asset Forfeiture

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

Border Patrol and IRS Sued for Stonewalling FOIA Requests on Asset Forfeiture

By CJ Ciaramella, Reason, Dec. 8, 2016

Want to see an IRS database of all the property it seizes from citizens? It'll cost you $750,000. How about a U.S. Customs and Border Protection database of seizures? Sorry, the CBP says the list of stuff they take from the public isn't a public record.

Such are the travails of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm that is suing the two federal agencies for stonewalling its public records requests for asset forfeiture databases.

The Institute for Justice, which has launched numerous state-level lawsuits challenging civil asset forfeiture laws, filed a lawsuit Thursday against CBP and the IRS, saying the two agencies are flouting the Freedom of Information Act.

Read more here.

FOIA News: FBI sued over Clinton warrant

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

L.A.-based Holocaust claims lawyer sues FBI over Clinton warrant

By Eitan Arom, Jewish Journal, Dec. 7, 2016

E. Randol Schoenberg was confused when he read a New York Times article in the waning days of the presidential election reporting the FBI had obtained a warrant to seize new material in the Hillary Clinton email case.

“I thought, ‘What does that mean?’” he told the Journal. “Normally you have to show probable cause. That’s what it says in the Fourth Amendment.” 

Schoenberg, 50, gained international prominence by reclaiming Jewish-owned art looted by the Nazis, most notably in the Maria Altmann case made famous by the 2015 film, “Woman in Gold.” 

Read more here

FOIA News: Judicial Watch asks judge to release videos in Clinton email case

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

Judicial Watch asks judge to release videos in Clinton email case

By Josh Gerstein, Politico, Dec. 5, 2016

A conservative group that played a key role in legal battles over access to Hillary Clinton's emails is asking a federal judge to release videos of depositions top Clinton aides and other State Department officials gave in connection with the litigation over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Judicial Watch filed a motion Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, asking him to unseal the testimony in light of the fact that the presidential election is over and the arguments against release seemed to be based on the videos becoming fodder in the White House race. Transcripts of the testimony were released soon after it was given, but the recordings have never been published.

"The sole reason for sealing the recordings in the first place was to avoid their misuse during the 2016 campaign season. Now that the election is over that reason no longer exists," Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha wrote. "The release of the recordings will not only allow the public to better understand Secretary Clinton’s email practices, it will also provide the public with a more complete picture of the discovery taken in this case."

Read more here.