FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2017)

FOIA News: Requests to EPA & Interior draw WAPO's attention

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Trump environmental officials are keeping tight rein over stampede of FOIA requests

By Dino Grandoni & Juliet Eilperin, Wash. Post, Dec. 15, 2017

The Trump administration’s top environmental policymakers are engaged in a new war with their adversaries — over how much information to release to the media and outside groups, who are often perceived as enemies, as part of a heavy stream of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department are at ground zero in this growing feud. At both departments and elsewhere in the administration, news outlets and nonprofit organizations have uncovered meeting schedules and travel manifests through FOIA requests that illustrate the ties top officials have forged with players in industries they are tasked with regulating. FOIA requests have also shed light on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s taxpayer-funded travel habits.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Reduction of Utah's national parks draws FOIA suit

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Enviro Group's FOIA Suit Wants Trump Admin's Monuments Docs

By Bryan Koenig, Law360, Dec. 14, 2017

The Conservation Lands Foundation Inc. expanded the fight over President Donald Trump's decision to shrink national monuments in Utah with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in D.C. federal court Wednesday, seeking documents to shed light on the move beyond the “sweeping generalizations” already made.

The nonprofit, already one of the legal challengers contesting Trump’s authority to slash huge tracts of land safeguarded by his predecessor, said that it’s received little to no response beyond initial messages acknowledging receipt of the Freedom of Information Act requests submitted over the summer to the U.S. Department of the Interior and other agencies.

Read more here (subscription required)

Copy of complaint here.


FOIA News: Suit seeks access to sexual assault records from Pentagon & DHS

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Nonprofit group sues DOD over requests for sexual assault data

Dianna Cahn, Stars and Stripes, Dec. 13, 2017

Advocates for service members and veterans filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government Wednesday to release data that they say is critical to protecting people who serve from sexual assault and the retaliation that can follow when victims report the abuse.

Charging that the military is obfuscating and illegally denying its requests for information, the nonprofit Protect Our Defenders joined forces with the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center in asking a U.S. district judge to compel all four branches to release the data under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, that is meant to ensure public information is accessible to anyone who asks for it.

Read more here.



FOIA News: DOJ withholds recommendation about Mueller ethics waiver

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Justice Department won't disclose details on Mueller ethics waiver

By Josh Gerstein, Politico, Dec. 12, 2017

The Justice Department is refusing to reveal details of the process that led up to former FBI Director Robert Mueller being granted an ethics waiver to serve as special counsel investigating the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

In response to a POLITICO Freedom of Information Act request, the agency released a one-sentence memo Friday confirming that Mueller was granted a conflict-of-interest waiver in order to assume the politically-sensitive post.

Read more here.

FOIA News: DHS Settles FOIA Suit Over Irish Olympic Coach

FOIA News (2017)Kevin SchmidtComment

DHS Settles FOIA Suit Over Irish Olympic Coach

By Darcy Reddan, Law360 , Dec. 11, 2017

A California federal court on Monday approved a deal between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and an investigative journalist suing under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the details of what allowed a former Irish Olympic swim team coach accused of sexual assault to immigrate to the United States.

Journalist Irvin Muchnick's suit against the federal government was dismissed without prejudice after the two sides reached a settlement amid mediation at the Ninth Circuit. 

Read more here (subscription).


FOIA News: EFF accepting nominations for worst FOIA responses

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Nominations Now Open for The Foilies 2018

By Dave Maas, Elect. Frontier Found., Dec. 8. 2017

For the fourth year, EFF is naming and shaming government officials and agencies around the country who stand in the way of transparency. We honor these information gatekeepers with The Foilies, our tongue-in-cheek “awards” during Sunshine Week, which runs from March 11-17, 2018. Think of it like “The Golden Raspberries,” but with outrageous responses to public records requests instead of box-office blunders.

Read more here.  

FOIA News: FOIA request seeks to slay CFPB resistance

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

CFPB Employees Form Harry Potter Style Resistance To Trump

By Joe Simonson, Daily Caller, Dec. 6, 2017

Employees within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are using encrypted messaging apps to conspire various ways of resisting acting director Mick Mulvaney’s agenda, according to a Tuesday report.

The group calls itself “Dumbledore’s Army,” a reference to a fictional secret cabal of young wizards in the children’s fantasy series “Harry Potter,” The New York Times reported.

“An atmosphere of intense anxiety has taken hold,” employees said, according to TheNYT. “In some cases, conversations between staff that used to take place by phone or text now happen almost exclusively in person or through encrypted messaging apps.”

The Cause of Action Institute, a nonprofit devoted to “public advocacy and legal reform tools to ensure greater transparency in government, protect taxpayer interests and promote economic freedom,” has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records related to information about the use of encrypted messaging apps by CFPB employees.

“CoA Institute’s FOIA seeks all records reflecting the number of CFPB devices on which encrypted messaging applications were installed, internal policy guidelines on the use of such apps, as well as the communications themselves and efforts by CFPB to recover and archive these messages,” the request reads. The FOIA also specifically requests all communications that contain the words “Dumbledore,” “Dumbledore’s Army,” “Snape,” “Voldemort,” and “He-who-shall-not-be-named,” among other records.

FOIA News: Thanks to FOIA, you can (kinda) play the CIA’s collectible card game

FOIA News (2017)Kevin SchmidtComment

Thanks to FOIA, you can (kinda) play the CIA’s collectible card game

By JPat Brown, MuckRock, Dec. 6, 2017

Agency’s “Collection Deck” game is ready for you to print out and play - it’s just that some of the cards are a matter of national security

Earlier this year, the Central Intelligence Agency hosted a panel at South by Southwest about the agency’s use of board games as a training exercise. Intrigued, MuckRock’s Mitchell Kotler filed a FOIA for the materials used to play Collection Deck, a collectible card game shown in the presentation.

Read more here (images included).

FOIA News: Op-ed urges feds to finalize "release-to-one, release-to-all" policy

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

By Tyler Arnold, Opinion Contributor, The Hill, Dec. 4, 2017

The Trump administration recently announced its plan to accelerate the processing of a 13,000 records-request backlog that has piled up over the past decade at the U.S. State Department. This is a good start, but the president has an even greater opportunity to show his administration’s commitment to transparency: finalizing the “Release to One, Release to all” rule for the Freedom of Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act, or “FOIA,” signed into law a half century ago, permits Americans to petition any federal agency for records. The purpose of the FOIA was to help hold those agencies accountable by allowing the public to know what their government was up to. The Release to One, Release to All policy, initially proposed under the Obama administration, would expand access to information by making records produced in response to individual FOIA requests publicly available to everyone through agency websites.

Read more here.