FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2019)

FOIA News: D.C. Circuit hears oral argument on meaning of database

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

DC Circ. Not Sure If IRS Can Slip Database Designation

Law360, Sept. 12, 2019

The D. C. Circuit seemed wary Thursday of the Internal Revenue Service’s argument that a system its manual calls a database isn’t actually one for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act suit it’s trying to get out of. The three judges spend part of their morning quizzing an IRS attorney on how the agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tracking and Retrieval System, or AFTRAK, works, so that they could decide for themselves whether the IRS had a duty to comply with a request for all the information it had on seized assets.

Read more here (accessible with free trial subscription)

Oral argument audio available here.

Copy of district court decision here.

FOIA News: See 9/11 FOIA videos

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

9/11 FOIA Videos: Street-Level Footage, Aerial Shots (Viewer Warning)

By Tim Haines, RealClear Politics, Sept. 11, 2019

18 years after the 9/11 attacks, a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits brought against the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has led to the release of almost all of the footage that was consulted when writing the 9/11 Commission report. Much of the footage was never aired on television until years later, or seen by the public at all until the age of YouTube.

More here.

FOIA News: IRS improperly withheld records in 8 percent of requests sampled by TIGTA

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

IRS Wrongly Withheld Info In 8% Of FOIA Filings, TIGTA Says

By Theresa Schliep, Law360,  Sept. 10, 2019

The Internal Revenue Service improperly withheld information in 8% of a sample group of Freedom of Information Act requests sent to the agency, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said...

Read more here (accessible with free trial subscription)

Copy of TIGTA report here.

FOIA News: Groups Denied Win In IRS FOIA Suit Over Immigration Raid

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Groups Denied Win In IRS FOIA Suit Over Immigration Raid

Law360, Sept. 9, 2019

A D. C. federal court Monday denied an initial attempt by the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Immigration Law Center to force the IRS to disclose records through an information request about its role in a controversial immigration raid. The two legal groups have not given the IRS an opportunity to respond to their allegations that the agency dodged a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records about an immigration raid at a Tennessee meatpacking plant in April 2018 that resulted in over 100 arrests, U. S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly ruled.

Read more here (accessible with free 7-day trial subscription)

FOIA News: House committee asks IG to investigate Interior’s FOIA processing

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

House requests investigation of Interior political appointees' review of public records

By Rebecca Beitsch & Miranda Green, The Hill, Sept. 6, 2019

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee requested a government watchdog investigate additional details in its ongoing probe of the Interior Department’s new public records policy, which allows political appointees to review and potentially withhold documents from release.

In a letter sent to the Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Friday, the committee asked for the OIG to additionally look into Interior’s Supplemental Awareness Review process.

Read more here.

FOIA News: EPA rejecting requests submitted by email

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

EPA is latest agency to stop accepting FOIA requests via email

Following the FBI’s “gold standard,” the agency is directing requesters to file through a portal or snail mail

By JPat Brown, MuckRock, Sept. 3, 2019

Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s new FOIA regulations which were implemented back in July, the EPA is no longer accepting request submissions via email, joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation in requiring requests be made through an online portal or snail mail.

Read more here.

FOIA News: NYT plugs it FOIA work again

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

How The Times Uses FOIA to Obtain Information the Public Has a Right to Know

Our lawyer provides an update on why we’re still filing so many Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.

By David McCraw, NY Times, Sept. 2, 2019

The anonymous note was secretly tucked into an envelope, behind an official letter from a government agency denying our reporter’s request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

It apparently came from someone deep in the agency’s FOIA bureaucracy. The request sought government documents related to the president’s business interests. Typed in large-font print on plain paper, the inserted note said: “The processing of the request was highly irregular. The withholding was entirely unjustified ... The document was probably withheld for political reasons.”

Read more here.

See NYT’s similar article from 2017 here.