Welcome Remarks for Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee
Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the sixth meeting of the 2020 to 2022 term of the federal Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee.
I am pleased to welcome the newest member of the Committee, Dione Stearns of the Federal Trade Commission, who I appointed last month to fill the vacancy created with the resignation of Loubna Haddad of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Thank you to Loubna for serving on this fourth term of the Committee. And thank you, Dione, for rolling up your sleeves for the last seven months of this term.
The Committee’s charter notes that in addition to developing recommendations for improving FOIA administration, the Committee also should develop recommendations for improving proactive disclosures. I understand that the Technology Subcommittee is building on work of the 2016 to 2018 term of the Committee, which offered 11 types of records to prioritize for proactive posting.
Here at the National Archives, we take seriously FOIA’s mandate to proactively post records of general interest. You may have heard news in the last couple of weeks about the role of the National Archives with regard to presidential records and executive privilege. I invite you to visit the online National Archives FOIA Library which contains a dozen letters related to the request for presidential records by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Other selected records available on our website include records related to my Task Force on Racism, which I convened in 2020 to recommend changes in support of an equitable environment for all National Archives customers, internal and external. Also on our website are FOIA logs, an employee locator, and an organizational phone list, among many other records frequently requested under FOIA. These postings set a great example for proactive disclosures across the government.
Committee members: I look forward to hearing about the ideas you all have been shaping and molding since the September 9th meeting on a range of FOIA matters including FOIA funding, first-party requests, and agencies’ use of the so-called “Glomar” response to neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.
Today marks the eighth virtual meeting of the FOIA Advisory Committee, which last met in person on March 5, 2020, when those of us in the William G. McGowan Theater here at the main Archives building refrained from handshakes and used copious amounts of hand sanitizer. Twenty-one months after the pandemic turned our world upside down, we continue to face uncertainty as to when we might meet again in person. For the time being, I wish you continued resilience as the days grow shorter between now and December 21, and happy holidays with your families and loved ones.
Finally, if you have not already watched the National Archives Foundation’s recent event with former FOIA Advisory Committee member Professor Margaret Kwoka [Quō kă] discussing her book “Saving the Freedom of Information Act,” I urge you to watch on the National Archives YouTube channel. Long-time FOIA Advisory Committee Member Tom Susman interviews Professor Kwoka about the role that FOIA plays in fostering democratic accountability and transparency.
I now turn the meeting over to Alina Semo.