On March 14, 2019, the Director of the Office of Information Policy advised the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that the government’s 2018 FOIA metrics would be available in approximately one month. To date, the 2018 annual reports of three dozen agencies have yet to be posted on Office of Information Policy’s website, which was last updated April 1, 2019.
Judge in FOIA case says he may want to review DOJ redactions of Mueller report after release
By Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Apr. 16, 2019
Federal District Judge Reggie Walton expressed uncertainty about the redactions Attorney General William Barr is making to special counsel Robert Mueller's report and suggested he may want to review the Justice Department's redactions for himself once versions of it are made public.
"Obviously there is a real concern as to whether there is full transparency," Walton said at a Tuesday court hearing in Washington about a request from BuzzFeed News to have the Justice Department release the report quickly under the Freedom of Information Act. "The attorney general has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned" about the redactions.
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The Commission of Fine Arts published an interim final rule, along with a request for public comments, concerning revised FOIA regulations in today’s issue of the Federal Register. The CFA last updated its FOIA regulations in 1986. The proposed revisions, which are effective June 1, 2019, incorporate all FOIA-related amendments that have passed over the past thirty years. Public comments are due by May 20, 2019.
Argument preview: Justices to consider meaning of “confidential” in Freedom of Information Act
By Mark Fenster, SCOTUSblog, Apr. 15, 2019
The U.S. Department of Agriculture issues specialized debit cards to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits recipients. Although the data that USDA gathers under SNAP are not quite so rich and revealing as those collected by private credit- and debit-card issuers, they do include commercial information about the retail grocery stores at which SNAP recipients purchase their groceries. The Argus Leader newspaper (based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota) requested this data under the Freedom of Information Act to further its investigative reporting into SNAP-related fraud. Its appeal of USDA’s denial of its request landed twice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit before reaching the Supreme Court, where the justices will hear oral argument on April 22.
Read more here.
Dems want additional funds to meet FOIA 'transparency goals'
Scott Streater, E&E News, Apr. 12, 2019
The Democratic chairmen of the House Natural Resources and Oversight and Reform committees are asking appropriators to increase funding for the Interior Department program that handles Freedom of Information Act requests
Read more here (accessible with free trial subscription).
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration published a proposed rule in today’s issue of the Federal Register. The rule would make changes to the agency’s FOIA regulations, in accordance with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. Public comments must be submitted on or before May 28, 2019.
A Judge Won't Order The Justice Department To Speed Up Releasing The Mueller Report
A judge ruled Tuesday that a group that sued for the report failed to show they'd suffer "irreparable harm" if they waited until after Attorney General Bill Barr releases a redacted version of Mueller's report.
By Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed, Apr. 9, 2019
A federal judge in Washington, DC, ruled Tuesday that he will not order the Justice Department to speed up its timeline for releasing special counsel Robert Mueller's report and other records related to the investigation.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Mueller's report, had asked the judge to issue an injunction requiring the government to release the report to the public by April 15, or whenever Attorney General Bill Barr sent it to Congress — whichever date was sooner. They also wanted an order requiring DOJ to "immediately" produce any executive summaries that went along with the report.
Read more here.
Everyone is asking for the Mueller report, and you can too
By Joshua Eaton, ThinkProgress, Apr. 9, 2019
The Justice Department has received 198 public records requests related to the Mueller probe since the investigation ended on March 22, the department said in a court filing Friday. That’s nearly half of the 415 records requests related to the Mueller probe that the Justice Department was processing as of March 29.
Requests for records from the special counsel’s office continue to pile up, according to Vanessa Brinkmann, senior counsel in the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy.
“This number continues to grow each day,” Brinkmann said in the court filing.
Read more here.
Hill Leaders Seek Review of FOIA Compliance
FEDweek, Apr. 3, 2019
A bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders on government oversight issues has asked the GAO to examine federal agency compliance with 2016 changes to the Freedom of Information Act.
Some agencies are not fully implementing the 2016 law and continue to burden requesters with unlawful delays and denials,” their request said. Among other provisions, that law created a presumption of openness, allowing agencies to withhold records only when there is foreseeable harm to an interest protected by an exemption or a legal requirement preventing their release.
Read more here.
Elgabrowny v. CIA (D.D.C.) -- finding that: (1)(a) FBI performed reasonable search for handwritten notes pertaining to interview of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef; (b) Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys failed to sufficiently describe its search for records pertaining to plaintiff’s criminal case; (c) CIA conducted adequate search in response to plaintiff’s request for a court-filed exhibit, but failed to even respond to plaintiff’s second request; and (2) CIA properly withheld records pursuant to Exemption 3 in conjunction with National Security Act of 1974.
Matthews v. FBI (D.D.C.) -- determining that: (1) FBI performed adequate search for records concerning plaintiff’s prosecution for wire and bank fraud; (2) agency properly withheld records pursuant to Exemption 3 (in conjunction with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e); Exemption 5 (deliberative process, attorney work-product, and attorney-client privileges), and Exemptions 6, 7(C), 7(D), and 7(E), except for agency’s use of Exemption 6 to withhold Federal Tort Claims Act file and its use of Exemption 7(D) regarding certain informants; and (3) plea agreement that prohibited plaintiff from requesting FBI’s investigatory files was unenforceable because it would serve no “legitimate criminal justice interest.”
Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.