FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2019)

FOIA News: FOIA Advisory Committee to meet on June 6, 2019

FOIA News (2019)Ryan MulveyComment

The Office of Government Information Services published a notice in today’s issue of the Federal Register to announce the next meeting of the FOIA Advisory Committee on June 6, 2019, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm. Those who wish to attend the meeting must register by June 3, 2019. The meeting will be live-streamed for those who are unable to attended on the National Archives’s YouTube channel.

FOIA News: Interior Secretary defends FOIA review procedure

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Bernhardt defends Interior Department’s public records review policy

By Tribune News Service, Austin Amer. Statesman, May 23, 2019  

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt defended on Wednesday the agency’s policy allowing politically appointed officials to review and comment on public records requests that relate to them.

Appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee to testify about his department’s budget, Bernhardt said the so-called “awareness review” policy was legal.

“It’s a process that’s very long-standing in the department,” Bernhardt told the committee. “We definitely formalized it,” he said. “It’s completely legal.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Interior maintains Obama's "sensitive review" policy

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Interior Department policy let political appointees review FOIA requests

So-called awareness review process could expose department to legal action

By Jacob Holzman, Roll Call, May 22, 2019

The Interior Department has for about a year allowed political appointees to weigh in on which federal records are released to the public, creating delays that could violate open records law and expose the department to legal action.

Read more here.

FOIA News: DOJ releases name of former U.S. Attorney who committed misconduct

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

The Justice Department Spent Nearly Two Years Fighting To Hide The Identity Of A US Attorney Accused Of Misconduct

A federal judge ordered DOJ to release the now-former US attorney’s name after BuzzFeed News sued.

By Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed News, May 20, 2019

The Justice Department’s inspector general announced in May 2017 that an unnamed US attorney, who had since retired, committed misconduct in office. He’d had an affair with a subordinate, according to the one-page release, created a hostile work environment, and potentially violated department sexual harassment rules.

Two years later — after BuzzFeed News went to court — a judge found that the public’s interest in bad behavior by top government officials outweighed their right to privacy and forced the Justice Department to release his name late last week: Stephen Wigginton, who served as a US attorney in Illinois from 2010 to 2015.

Read more here.

FOIA News: DOJ's Civil Division complains about FOIA requests

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Watchdogs Use FOIA as a ‘Weapon,’ Justice Department Complains

The memo acknowledges a salient fact: There are more people than ever taking it upon themselves to inform the general public about the activities of the U.S. government.

By Lachlan Markay, Daily Beast, May 16, 2019

The Department of Justice complained in early 2018 that nonprofit good-government groups were weaponizing federal open-records laws, according to a memo obtained, appropriately enough, through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“A host of government watchdog groups now essentially seek to use FOIA requests and related litigation as a weapon in the political and advocacy process,” reads the memo, authored by the DOJ’s civil division, which is charged with defending the government in FOIA lawsuits.

Read more here (subscription required)

FOIA News: Spanberger-related docs released

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Closing the Book on Spanberger’s SF-86

By Evan Kielar & Scott R. Anderson, Lawfare, May 13, 2019

Last year, one of us filed a “meta-FOIA” request with Benjamin Wittes seeking information on how former CIA officer and then-congressional candidate (now congresswoman) Abigail Spanberger’s unredacted SF-86 form was released in response to a right-wing advocacy group’s FOIA request. We petitioned both the National Archives and Records Administrations (NARA) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), each of which had played a role in the release.

Read more here.