The Sunshine in Government blog reports that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) is poised to reintroduce his amendment to the Farm Bill blocking release of certain information through the FOIA rather than letting the existing FOIA law take care of what is releaseable and what isn't.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has issued a major FOIA decision in CREW v. FEC. [ed. note - I do legal work for CREW but was not involved in this decision].
The decision decides what constitutes a FOIA determination and that decision is adverse to the one espoused by the government. Basically, a determination requires the agency to actually advise a requester what is specifically going to do -- i.e release documents fully, release with specific exemptions and it is not enough for an agency to say we are going to process and release the records.
Hopefully, the Attorney General and his staff will make note that those under his command espoused a position directly in conflict with policy guidance he and President Obama set forth four years ago and deal with it accordingly.
One of FOIA Requesters biggest complaint is the time it takes for an agency to process the request. Often, requests will go into litigation and if a timetable for the agency to process is not worked out between the parties, the government will seek a stay of the case to allow it to process the records. A number of factors will be weighed by te agency in seeking the amount of time it requests to process the records. The agency will then file a declaration seeking the court's permission for the delay -- this is called an Open America declaration. Rather than bore you with a synopsis of where that came from, suffice it to say an agency must show that its backlog causing the delay was unexpected and that its making progress in reducing the backlog.
In a recent case, the FBI asked for a stay of 29 months to finish processing. United States District Court Colleen Kollar-Kotelly had other ideas, finding that the FBI failed to meet the requirements that would allow it to get a full Open America Stay and ordered the FBI to finish processing the documents all non-classified records in the request by August 1, 2013.
There are other similar cases pending in the District Court and it will be interesting to see if this decision affects the outcomes of those cases.
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.
Judicial Watch has announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Reserve on a FOIA request it made for records pertaining to the AIG bailout that began on September 16, 2008. The Federal Reserve has not taken any processing action on the May 2012 request as of the date of the filing of the lawsuit.
CNN reports that the government has moved for summary judgment in the ACLU's lawsuit seeking information on authorization for targeted drone killings. The government says that releasing the information would harm the government's counterterrorism efforts.
The Environmental Integrity Project has filed a lawsuit concerning a request made for records concerning meetings between the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and the EPA. The Hill has more on the suit here.
The government has now responded to a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court that would attempt to resolve the different results of different circuits. In a nutshell, the government thinks an appeal of the issue is too early in that it believes the circuit courts may resolve the differences themselves.
I believe that in the spirit of openness and transparency, the U.S. Government should announce that it is following the Sixth Circuit ruling and will release all mug shots of those convicted of crimes -- that would be the best way to foster judicial economy and negate the conflict in the courts.