Blogcritic writes about a lawsuit against the BOP brought by a nonprofit called Prisology that seeks to change the agency's FOIA practices. Federal Courts are usually not inclined to look under the hood of FOIA Operations so it will interesting if the lawsuit gets any traction.
Federal News Radio interviewed Ginger McCall of EPIC about the FOIA and proposed changes coming from the administration and Congress to fix FOIA problems. While Ginger is from the requester community, she speaks strongly on behalf of the need to fully fund and back FOIA Operations in the agencies. The interview can be found here.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court asking it to review lower court decisions that allowed the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel to withhold and keep secret OLC's legal opinions on allowing the government to obtain phone records without any legal process.
Just because the lower court's affirmed the government's position doesn't mean that the case will sail through the Supreme Court and be affirmed. The last major FOIA case at the Supreme Court concerned the use of Exemption 2 - and overrruled goverment practices that had been in operation for over 25 years. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it will be interesting to see where that body takes it.
The Wall Street Journal reports that General Motors has moved to intervene in a FOIA lawsuit brought by the Center for Auto Safety. GM seeks the intervention so that it can assist the government in the claim that many of the documents that pertain to the GM bankruptcy at issue contain GM's confidential business information. If the intervention is permitted, GM will back up the government's Exemption 4 withholdings of certain documents with its own declarations supporting the exemption claim.
The Washington Post has this blog piece on ideal FOIA regulations. DOJ is working on its own regulations which have not been updated since the last amendments to the FOIA during the Bush Administration.
The lack of updated FOIA regulations is a fertile area for bipartisan Congressional hearings as the FOIA regulations are what FOIA analysts go by in making their determinations. If Congress passes new FOIA laws but agencies don't bother to update their regulations, many FOIA analysts don't incorporate the laws into their decision making. An example of this can be seen in the fee status decisions in deciding who is a member of the media.
My guess is that much of the problem lies with OMB who must bless regulations but really doesn't want to do much with FOIA. For those that remember, when OGIS's recommendations were not forthcoming it was learned, during Congressional hearings, that OMB was sitting on the recommendations.
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) which is the Office tasked with FOIA Ombudsman activities among other things is hiring. They have two job positions open and they hire from both within and outside of the government. The job postings can be found here and here.
The Center for Public Integrity has sued HHS over a FOIA request on Medicare Advantage Documents according to the Daily Caller. The article quotes CPI journalists who brought the request as saying the lawsuit was brought because the government ignored the request.
This leads me to my question of the day, are FOIA backlogs the same as a lack of transparency? And can the administration be solely blamed for them when they are dependent on a stream of funding for FOIA Operations- funding that comes from Congress? I think there is plenty of blame to go around between the administration, agencies and Congress in the discussion of these issues.
Each agency that is covered by the FOIA must have regulations concerning their FOIA program. These regulations must incorporate the latest statutory amendments and case law. However, many agencies have failed to make the necessary changes in recent years and are operating their FOIA programs under regulations that do not reflect the current state of the law. A coalition of public interest groups has developed a website that has a model set of FOIA regulations that will allow agencies to easily update their regulations. The website can be found here and provides a great deal of valuable information.