Bloomberg has this article which includes a section on the SEC denying a FOIA request for information given by a former Citigroup Executive about a major credit-quality problem he believed the bank had in 2007. From the article, I'm not sure what exemption the SEC used to withhold the material, but you can see the person who gave the information does not believe it should be withheld from the public.
The State Department's Office of Inspector General has issued a report on the State Department's FOIA Operations. The report sharply criticizes the Department's handling of its FOIA duties. One of the surprising findings is that with a rising backlog, the FOIA Office allowed some of its employees to be detailed to Brazil to assist that country in the processing of its FOIA requests.
It's not often that an internal report is this honest in pointing out the problems of a FOIA Operation. Hopefully, State FOIA leadership will read it and incorporate the recommendations made in the report.
I do disagree with one of the contentions in the report -- it states that litigation with the State Department has tripled in the past few years and the report contends that this is because of the attorney fee changes in the FOIA Amendments of 2006. I've sued the State Department a few times since 2006 and in none of these instances did this change in the law factor into my clients' decisions to sue. The decision, in all of the cases, was frustration with the agency's handling of the underlying FOIA requests. Thus, I think the opinion that the attorney fee change is not accurate and is not backed up with any evidence provided by those suing the agency.
Here's some news on FOIA cases around the country:
The Federal Times reports that the Postal Service has been told that the number of pieces of mail sent out by a former school board member under his bulk permit is not exempt as proprietary information and must be released. More on the case can be found here.
The Blog of the Legal Times reports that the Department of Justice is appealing an order that a United States Trade Representative document concerning its trade position isn't properly classified. Briefs and other information can be found here.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over ICE's refusal to search for records pertaining to the dates and results of ICE's inspections of its detention facilities. ICE has refused to search for the records because it maintains that it does not have the means to extract the data. TRAC's statement on the suit is located here.
The San Fransisco Chronicle reports that the FBI has been ordered to pay attorney fees of $470,000 in two FOIA lawsuits brought by journalist Seth Rosenfeld. The lawsuits were originally brought in 1990 and 2007. Rosenfeld was previously awarded fees on another FOIA case, bringing the awards to over one million dollars. [ed. note -- This case was pending during my tenure at the FBI in 1998-2002; however I do not recall being involved in any major decision in the matter.]
Judge Beryl A. Howell of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has issued an 83 page opinion on National Security Counselors' ("NSC") complaints against the CIA on a number of procedural roadblock's the CIA has put up against NSC FOIA requests to the CIA. NSC had filed three seperate lawsuits that the court consolidated into one action. Judge Howell dismissed a number of the counts of the complaints; however in doing so she described a path as to how the same counts could be heard by the court and also issued a number of warnings to the CIA that even though they won the battle, they probably didn't win the war. Some of the claims were not dismissed and that part of the lawsuit will continue.
The D.C. Open Government Coalition has sued the D.C. Council under the D.C. FOIA for any e-mails concerning public business sent by council members on private e-mail accounts. The D.C. Open Government Coalition has worked with D.C. Government to improve FOIA operations throughout the city and this is the first time, I believe, that it has actually sued the government over a FOIA issue.
More information, including the complaint can be found here.
Carolina Academic Press has released a FOIA textbook, the Law of Access to Government. The book is authored by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School of Law Professor Richard J. Peltz-Steele.
The publishers have issued the following comment about the book: This is the only casebook geared entirely to the study of access to government, or freedom of information law. The book employs the law-school case method, but is suitable as well for graduate and advanced undergraduate students in journalism and mass communication. Cases aim to stimulate student interest, treating, for example, access to sexual-offense allegations against pro athletes, in addition to doctrinal essentials, such as Press-Enterprise and RCFP. Extensive notes raise legal and policy questions. The book includes graphic elements and a statutory appendix and is updated with developments in the war on terror, including embedding, war photos, and state secrets. The forthcoming Teacher's Manual will provide course guidance, content summaries, and references to audiovisual materials.