The Minnesota Star Tribune has this on felony charges against an FBI agent for leaking secret documents to a publication. According to the article, the publication referenced the secret documents when it made a FOIA request to the FBI.
The American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP) has announced its National Training Conference, once again being held in Arlington, VA just a hop, skip and a jump from National Airport and across the river from the Nation's Capital. More information can be found here - A couple of money saving hints: ASAP members get a very good discount on registration and the earlier you register the cheaper the whole program is.
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) has put out a new blog posting giving three succinct tips for agencies to help in avoiding litigation. While doing all three may not avoid litigation all of the time, I concur with the position of OGIS that doing these three things will help avoid litigation in many situations.
FCW has this on a few bills that have made it through the House Oversight Committee that relate to FOIA (but are not FOIA bills).
The first bill is the Electronic Message Preservation Act that deals with records management. This bill would empower NARA to issue rules to agencies for the capture of and preservation of electronically created records so that they would be accessible via electronic searches. This bill aims to stop agencies from using electronic messaging apps that automatically delete after being sent.
The second bill is one that would require agencies to make FOIA records available to the Office of Government Information Services ("OGIS") upon request. OGIS is the FOIA ombudsman and in order to do its job on FOIA meditations often needs to see agency records; however agencies are currently under no obligation to cooperate and provide the records to OGIS.
As all of us who watched School House Rock as kids know, both bills will need to go to the full House and then be passed by the Senate before becoming law.
The Department of Justice is charged with providing guidance on the FOIA. One of the ways this is done is through the DOJ FOIA Guide. At one time the Guide was published on an annual basis, and then it went to a two year cycle. With the onset of the internet, the Guide went online - it can be found here. However, there is no longer any schedule for its sections to be updated, and many of its sections have not been updated since 2009. In fact, the most recent update for any section was 2015.
Of course there have been many significant Court rulings as well as statutory amendments to the FOIA itself in 2016 since the Guide has last been updated. The Senate failed to ask anything about this during its oversight hearing earlier this week. Requesters and FOIA professionals would all benefit from a fresh up to date FOIA Guide.
FCW has this summary of Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Oversight Hearing on the FOIA. The Hearing was rather short and poorly attended by the committee itself. Only three witnesses, all government, testified.
Most of the questions to the witnesses were softballs -- and even all of those softball questions weren't answered. DOJ's representative tried to keep her answers to only FOIA specific matters that her office has total control over. Senators on both sides weren't overly pleased with the answers.
Hopefully, the Senate will hold another oversight hearing at some point in the near future when they have witnesses from the requester community and those agencies (HUD, State) that have serious issues in what appears to be the politicization of the FOIA under the current administration. It would also be great to have a hearing on the funding of FOIA operations - that topic wasn't mentioned in the hearing yesterday either.
The Department of Justice is busy this week selling the FOIA portal found at FOIA.Gov. However, in updating this cite, they removed the most helpful information that was on the cite - the list of FOIA contacts for all the agencies subject to the FOIA.
I urge DOJ to put the FOIA contact list back on FOIA.Gov.
Update: An employee of GSA/18F (I have to confess, I'm confused if 18F is a government entity or a contractor) has stated that the information was taken off the site because of a lack of time and money. The employee advises to go to the bottom of the page and type in the agency's name that information is sought from and it will come up in a search.
This week is Sunshine Week - the one week a year when the press talks up FOIA and government transparency. Sunshine Week.org has this calendar of events. Additionally, the Senate will hold a hearing on FOIA on Tuesday -- the link to it is here but there are no details as to who is testifying or what subjects will be covered.
DOJ has announced the creation of the national FOIA portal. FOIA portals allow a single entry point for FOIA requests and to check on the status of the requests and some other things such as the disclosure of records.
What doesn't a portal do and why isn't it the answer to all of the FOIA woes that agencies and requesters have? Its because FOIA portals do not process FOIA records - FOIA portals do not add any individuals to FOIA operations to conduct searches or process responsive records. Thus, while a FOIA portal is nice, it isn't the answer to keeping up with the record amount of FOIA request being made. Only increased funding to FOIA operations in agencies and the proper training and supervision of FOIA employees can assist in keeping FOIA backlogs down.