The National Archives and Records Administration established the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee in 2014 to foster dialog between the Administration and the requester community, solicit public comments, and develop consensus recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures. The Archivist of the United States renewed the Committee's two-year charter in 2016.
The Federal FOIA Advisory Committee reports to the Archivist of the United States. The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) serves as the chair of the Committee, and OGIS staff provides administrative and logistical support.
Article 1. Purpose.
Article 2. Authority.
Article 3. Membership.
Article 4. Meetings.
Article 5. Voting.
Article 6. Committee Officers and Responsibilities.
Article 7. Records.
Article 8. Committee Expenses.
Article 9. Amendment of Charter and Bylaws
Article 1. Purpose
The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) Advisory Committee (“Committee”) advises on improvements to the FOIA and studies the current FOIA landscape across the Executive Branch. The Committee shall report to the Archivist of the United States (“AOTUS”) and may recommend legislative action, policy changes or executive action, among other matters.
Article 2. Authority.
The Committee was established in accordance with the second United States Open Government National Action Plan released on December 5, 2013, and the directive in the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(1)(C), that the Office of Government Information Services (“OGIS”) within the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”) “recommend policy changes … to improve” FOIA administration. This Committee is subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (“FACA”), the FOIA, and the Government in the Sunshine Act (“GISA”).
Article 3. Membership.
- The Committee will consist of no more than 20 individuals. To ensure balanced representation, NARA will strive to appoint equal numbers of government and non-governmental members. Government members of the Committee should include, at a minimum, three FOIA professionals from Cabinet-level Departments; four FOIA professionals from non-Cabinet agencies; one representative from the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy; and one representative from NARA. Non-governmental members of the advisory committee will include, at a minimum, three individuals representing the interests of non-governmental organizations that advocate on FOIA matters; two individuals representing the interests of FOIA requesters who qualify for the “all other” FOIA requester fee category; one individual representing the interests of requesters who qualify for the “news media” FOIA requester fee category; one individual representing the interests of requesters who qualify for the “commercial” FOIA requester fee category; one individual representing the interests of historians and history-related organizations; and one individual representing the interests of academia.
Any Federal employees appointed to the Committee must comply with the following guidelines: (1) Federal employees appointed to the Committee must annually file a confidential financial disclosure report with the NARA Office of General Counsel (“NGC”) on or before the date of their first participation in a Committee meeting, (2) Any Federal employees appointed to the Committee will serve on the Committee in their official capacity and exercise their own individual best judgment on behalf of the government in Committee deliberations, free from conflicts of interest.
The Designated Agency Ethics Official (“DAEO”) for NARA has determined that all non-Federal members of the Committee are “representatives” for purposes of federal ethics laws and regulations (rather than Special Government Employees or SGEs), and, thus, do not need to file annual financial disclosure reports. All Representative members must comply with the following guidelines: (1) Representatives appointed to the Committee are expected to provide the Committee with the “interests, views or biases” of a non-governmental entity or recognizable group of stakeholders in the area of FOIA that that member represents, and to exercise their best judgment about the matters under consideration.
Guidance on exercising one’s judgment in Committee deliberations is found in the Office of Government Ethics guidance of 2005 at https://www.archives.gov/files/ogis/assets/05x4.pdf, and the OMB guidance of August 13, 2014 at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-08-13/pdf/2014-19140.pdf.
- Nominations. The Chairperson will solicit and accept nominations for Committee membership. Potential nominees are responsible for complying with any procedures and/or receiving necessary approvals from their agency or organization prior to submitting their name and information for consideration.
- Appointment. The AOTUS shall appoint all Committee members.
- Term of Membership. The term of membership for both Government and Representative members shall be two years. Members may serve successive terms. In the event that a Committee member is unable to serve a full term, no longer meets the requirements under which he or she was appointed, or fails or is unable to participate regularly in Committee work in the eyes of the Chairperson, the Archivist shall appoint a replacement through the process described in Article 3. B. and C. to complete the unexpired portion of that departing member’s term. An appointment letter from the Archivist to each member will convey each member's term.
- Compensation. There will be no compensation for members of the Committee. NARA will not provide travel or per diem compensation.
Article 4. Meetings.
- General. The Committee will meet up to four times per year as called by the Designated Federal Officer (“DFO”). The DFO will set the time and place for meetings and will publish a notice in the Federal Register at least 15 calendar days prior to each meeting.
- Quorum. The Committee will hold meetings only when a quorum is present either in person or via a phone or video conference. For this purpose, a quorum is defined as two-thirds of the 20 members, or 13 members.
- Open Meetings. Unless otherwise determined in advance, all meetings of the Committee will be open to the public. All matters brought before or presented to the Committee during the conduct of an open meeting, including the minutes of the proceedings of an open meeting, shall be available to the public for review or copying.
- Closed Meetings. The Committee will hold closed meetings only in limited circumstances and in accordance with applicable law. If, during the course of an open meeting, matters inappropriate for public disclosure arise during discussions, the Chairperson will order such discussion to cease, and shall schedule it for a closed session. Notices of either full or partial closed meetings will be published in the Federal Register at least 15 calendar days in advance of the meeting.
- Agenda. The DFO, in consultation with the Chairperson, shall approve the agenda for all meetings. OGIS will distribute the agenda to the members prior to each meeting. OGIS will post a copy of the agenda to the Committee’s webpage or subpages at https://ogis.archives.gov/foia-advisory-committee.htm in advance. Any member of the Committee may submit agenda items to the Chairperson or DFO. Non-members, including members of the public may also suggest agenda items to the Chairperson or DFO.
- Conduct of Meetings. The Chairperson will call meetings to order, following which the members will state their presence. The Chairperson will then read or reference the certified minutes of the previous meeting. The Chairperson will make announcements, ask for reports from subcommittees or individual members as previously arranged, open discussion of unfinished business, introduce new business, and invite members to comment on any business. Public oral comment may be invited at any time during the meeting, but most likely at the meeting’s end, unless the meeting notice advised that written comment was to be accepted in lieu of oral comment. Upon completion of the Committee's business, as agreed upon by the members present, the DFO will adjourn the meeting.
- Minutes. The DFO will prepare minutes. The Chairperson will certify the accuracy of the minutes within 90 calendar days. Copies of the minutes will be published on the Committee’s web page once certified. The minutes will include a record of the persons present (including the names of committee members, names of staff, and the names of members of the public from whom written or oral presentations were made) and a description of the matters discussed and conclusions reached, and copies of all reports, recommendations, or other materials received, issued or approved by the Committee.
- Public Comment. Members of the public may attend any meeting, or any portion of a meeting, that is open to the public, and may at the determination of the Chairperson, offer public comment during a meeting. The meeting announcement published in the Federal Register may note that oral comment from the public is excluded and in such circumstances invite written comment as an alternative. Members of the public may submit written statements to the Committee at any time.
- Subcommittee Meetings. The Committee Chairperson, in consultation with the full Committee and with the approval of the DFO, may convene subcommittees, to include subgroups or working groups, to support the Committee’s functions. Each subcommittee shall brief the members of the full Committee on its work, and present any recommendations to the full Committee for deliberation. Each subcommittee shall report directly to the Committee.
Article 5. Voting.
When a decision or recommendation of the Committee is required, the Chairperson shall request a motion for a vote. Any member of the Committee, including the Chairperson, may move that the Committee take a vote. No second after a proper motion shall be required to bring any issue to a vote.
- Voting Eligibility. Only the Chairperson and the members may vote on an issue before the Committee.
- Voting Procedures. The Committee shall vote by a show of hands or a voice vote in the case of members participating by telephone.
- Reporting of Votes. The Chairperson will report to the public the results of any votes. In reporting or using the results of Committee voting, the following terms shall apply: (1) Unanimous Decision: Results when every voting member, except abstentions, is in favor of, or opposed to, a particular motion; (2) General Consensus: Results when at least two-thirds of the total votes cast are in favor of, or are opposed to, a particular motion; (3) General Majority: Results when a majority of the total votes cast are in favor of, or are opposed to, a particular motion.
Article 6. Committee Officers and Responsibilities.
- Chairperson. The Chairperson will: (1) call meetings of the Committee to order; (2) set the meeting agenda; (3) determine a quorum; (4) open and preside over the meetings; and (5) certify meeting minutes.
- Subcommittees. The Committee Chairperson, in consultation with the full Committee and with the approval of the DFO, may convene subcommittees to support the Committee’s functions. All subcommittees will report their work and findings to the Committee for deliberation.
- Subcommittee Co-Chairs. Each formally designated subcommittee shall have two chairs, one Government member and one Representative member from the Committee membership, selected in consultation with the Committee Chairperson and the DFO. Each subcommittee chair shall serve a term as appropriate to the work of the subcommittee. The co-Chairs will: (1) call meetings of the Subcommittee to order; (2) set the meeting agenda; (3) open and preside over the meetings; (4) copy the DFO and alternate on all subcommittee correspondence, and (5) send copies of Subcommittee meeting notes and related materials to the DFO. The DFO will: (1) Approve or call the meeting of the Subcommittee; (2) approve the Subcommittee meeting agenda; (3) attend Subcommittee meetings; (4) Adjourn Subcommittee meetings; and (5) Chair Subcommittee meetings when so directed by the Committee Chairperson or Subcommittee co-Chairs.
- Designated Federal Officer. The FACA requires each advisory committee to have a DFO and an alternate, one of whom must be present for all meetings. OGIS staff serves as the DFO and alternate for the Committee. Any meeting held without the DFO or alternate present will be considered as a subcommittee, subgroup, or working group meeting. The DFO will: (1) call the meeting of the Committee or Subcommittee(s); (2) approve the agenda for all meetings; (3) attend the meetings of the Committee and Subcommittee(s); (4) adjourn the meeting of the committee or Subcommittee(s); and (5) chair any meeting when so directed by the AOTUS.
- Committee Staff. The NARA staff shall serve as the Committee staff on an as-needed basis, and shall provide all services normally performed by such staff. NARA Office of General Counsel will provide ethics program support to the Committee.
Article 7. Records.
Records presented to the Committee by any method at any time, including those distributed during the course of a meeting, are part of the official Committee files, and become NARA agency records within the meaning of the FOIA, and are subject to the provisions of that Act.
Committee records shall be available for public inspection and copying in accordance with Section 10(b) of the FACA, which “provide[s] for the contemporaneous availability of advisory committee records that, when taken in conjunction with the ability to attend advisory committee meetings, provide a meaningful opportunity to comprehend fully the work undertaken by the advisory committee.”
Committee members should preserve records, including correspondence exchanged between Committee members, stakeholders, and/or agency committee staff (such as the DFO), that document Committee activities. Committee members must copy the DFO on all Committee and Subcommittee correspondence to simplify recordkeeping.
NARA will post as many Committee documents as is feasible to the Committee’s webpage or subpages at https://ogis.archives.gov/foia-advisory-committee.htm.
Article 8. Committee Expenses
NARA will cover committee expenses, such as facility, staffing, and transcription services. NARA will not provide compensation, travel or per diem compensation for members. NARA will not provide funds for meals or refreshments.
Article 9. Amendment of Charter and Bylaws.
Amendments to the Charter and Bylaws of the Committee must conform to the requirements of the FACA and be agreed to by two-thirds of the 20 members. The DFO shall confirm that all Committee members have confirmed receipt of any proposed amendment before any vote to amend the Charter or Bylaws.
National Archives and Records Administration Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee Charter
1. Committee’s Official Designation: The name of this advisory committee shall be the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee (Committee).
2. Authority: The Committee is established in accordance with the second United States Open Government National Action Plan released on December 5, 2013, and the directive in the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(1)(C), that the Office of Government Information Services within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) “recommend policy changes … to improve” the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration. This Committee is governed by the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended, 5 U.S.C. App.
3. Objectives and Scope of Activities: The Committee advises on improvements to the administration of FOIA. The objective of the Committee is to study the current FOIA landscape across the Executive Branch and to make recommendations to the Archivist of the United States.
4. Description of Duties: The Committee fosters dialogue between the Federal Government and the requester community, solicits public comments, and develops recommendations for improving FOIA administration and proactive disclosures. The Committee will be advisory only.
5. Official(s) to whom the Committee Reports: The committee shall report to the Archivist of the United States.
6. Support: NARA’s Office of Government Information Services will provide funding and administrative support for the Committee to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.
7. Estimated Annual Operating Costs and Staff Years: The annual operating cost for the Committee is estimated to be $90,000 and one full staff year. There will be no compensation for members of the Committee. Travel and/or per diem costs will not be provided by NARA.
8. Designated Federal Officer (DFO): The DFO is a full-time salaried employee of NARA and will perform the duties set forth in § 102-3.120 of the FACA Final Rule. The Archivist of the United States shall designate a DFO who shall manage the Committee and provide such clerical, administrative, and logistical support as necessary for the Committee to effectively conduct its business.
9. Estimated Number and Frequency of Meetings: In consultation with the Archivist of the United States, the DFO shall hold meetings up to four times per year and may call additional meetings as may be necessary.
10. Duration: The need for this Committee is continuing.
11. Termination: The Charter shall be eligible for renewal every two years.
12. Membership and Designation: The Committee will consist of no more than 20 individuals. Government members of the Committee should include, at a minimum, three FOIA professionals from Cabinet-level Departments; three FOIA professionals from non-Cabinet agencies; the Director of the Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy, or his/her designee; and the Director of the Office of Government Information Services, or his/her designee, who will chair the committee. Non-governmental members of the advisory committee will include, at a minimum, two individuals representing the interests of non-governmental organizations that advocate on FOIA matters; one individual representing the interests of FOIA requesters who qualify for the “all other” FOIA requester fee category; one individual representing the interests of requesters who qualify for the “news media” FOIA requester fee category; one individual representing the interests of requesters who qualify for the “commercial” FOIA requester fee category; one individual representing the interests of historians and history-related organizations; and one individual representing the interests of academia. The Committee will be composed of Representative members and Regular Government Employees.
The Archivist of the United States shall appoint a Chairperson. If necessary, a Vice Chairperson may be designated annually by members of the Committee, in consultation with the Archivist of the United States. The Chairperson is the presiding officer of the Committee who guides its efforts to the effective completion of its assigned tasks. The Chairperson shall provide leadership and adhere to the Charter and such other rules of order and operating procedures as the Committee may adopt, maintain order, and conduct each meeting in accordance with FACA and the prescribed rules and procedures. The Chairperson is responsible for certifying the accuracy of Committee meeting minutes. The Vice Chairperson shall assume and perform the duties of the Chairperson in the event the Chairperson is absent or unavailable. 13. Subcommittees: NARA may create subcommittees as necessary to support the committee’s work. The subcommittees report to the Committee. The Subcommittee Chairperson shall be a Committee member.
14. Recordkeeping: The records of the committee and any subcommittee(s) shall be handled in accordance with General Records Schedule 6.2, item 10 and any approved agency records disposition schedule. These records shall be available for public inspection and copying, subject to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552.
Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero appointed 20 members to the FOIA Advisory Committee in May 2016. The Committee consists of 10 members from within the Federal government and 10 non-governmental members who have considerable FOIA expertise and who were selected to achieve a balanced representation. Committee members are appointed to serve a two-year term. Alina M. Semo, OGIS Director, is the Committee Chair.
- Alina M. Semo, Chair, Office of Government Information Services
- Michael Bell, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Stephanie Carr, U.S.Department of Defense
- Jill Eggleston, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Sarah Kotler, Food and Drug Administration
- Raynell Lazier, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Ginger McCall, U.S. Department of Labor
- Logan Perel, U.S. Department of the Treasury
- David Pritzker, Administrative Conference of the United States
- Melanie Pustay, U.S. Department of Justice
- Michael Bekesha, Judicial Watch
- Mitra Ebadolahi, American Civil Liberties Union
- James Hershberg, George Washington University
- Nate Jones, National Security Archive
- Chris Knox, Deloitte
- Margaret Kwoka, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
- Sean Moulton, Project on Government Oversight
- Thomas Susman, American Bar Association
- James Valvo, Cause of Action Institute
- Lynn Walsh, Society of Professional Journalists
Michael Bekesha is an attorney for Judicial Watch, Inc. He has litigated dozens of FOIA cases since starting at Judicial Watch in August 2009. He has represented Judicial Watch, journalists, researchers, and private citizens. Michael has also worked with Congress in attempts to reform FOIA. In addition, Michael has sent FOIA requests and administrative appeals, mediated FOIA requests through OGIS, spoken at an ASAP conference, worked with law school students working on a FOIA lawsuit, and is published on the topic of FOIA and Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Mike Bell is the Deputy Director of the Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOI/PA) Division and the FOIA Public Liaison for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a position he has held since October 2013. He has also held leadership positions at the Department of Defense FOI/PA Division and the Department of Treasury Office of Financial Stability. Mike has helped successfully lead backlog reduction efforts at every agency he has worked at. Since becoming the HHS FOIA Public Liaison, he has emphasized increased responsiveness to the concerns of all FOIA requesters. Finally, Mike was part of the HHS Leadership Team that received the 2017 Sunshine Week Award for Exceptional Service by a Team of FOIA Professionals. DOJ presented the award to HHS for being the only federal agency to meet or exceed the DOJ 10% backlog reduction goal for the entirety of the Obama Administration.
Stephanie Carr is the Chief of the Office of Freedom of Information for the Office of Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff, responsible for FOIA processing for over 20 field offices. She has served as the Policy Team Lead and Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) Liaison for the Defense Freedom of Information and Policy Office, where she provided FOIA policy guidance to the DoD FOIA community and served as the DoD Liaison for matters involving OGIS. With over 25 years of FOIA experience, she has processed FOIA requests, managed FOIA and FOIA/Privacy programs, worked with the Alternative Dispute Resolution community in developing a DoD Conflict Resolution/Customer Service (CRCS) course, managed FOIA/Privacy Act Training Workshops, and taught at the Department of the Navy, DoD, and the American Society of Access Professionals. In 1996, she received a Navy Meritorious Civilian Award for her part in the development of the first FOIA Handbook in the federal government.
Mitra Ebadolahi is the Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, a position that she has held since May 2013. In this capacity, she routinely files and litigates FOIA requests against various federal government agencies, including in particular Department of Homeland Security components U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Border Patrol. (According to DHS’s Chief FOIA Officer’s 2015 Report to the Attorney General, DHS’s FOIA backlog increased in FY2014 alone by 101 percent.) Ebadolahi is also a Lecturer-in-Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, where she has taught Immigration Law and seminars on Constitutional Rights at the Border. Prior to joining the ACLU of San Diego, Ebadolahi was the inaugural Nadine Strossen Fellow with the ACLU’s National Security Project in New York, where she submitted FOIA requests to the CIA, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and the Department of State, along with various subcomponents thereof. She also clerked for Judge Betty B. Fletcher, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Judge Margaret M. Morrow, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). She holds a B.A. from UCLA, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and JD and LL.M. degrees from New York University School of Law, where she started working on FOIA in 2007 as a student practitioner in the International Human Rights Law Clinic. She is admitted to practice in California and New York.
Jill Eggleston is the Freedom of Information Act Officer for USCIS. She also serves as the FOIA Public Liaison for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. She oversees the largest FOIA Department within the Federal Government, averaging over 160,000 FOIA requests annually. Ms. Eggleston is an attorney with over 28 years of federal service, having served nearly 20 years with the Department of Defense in the Office of General Counsel (OGC). Part of her responsibilities with OGC included the review of FOIA requests filed with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. During her time with USCIS she was named DHS FOIA Officer of the Year for two consecutive years. She was competitively selected to attend a leadership development course at OPM’s Federal Executive Institute. She has successfully overseen multiple backlog reduction efforts, significantly increased outreach to USCIS customer and program office base, expanded the proactive disclosure program, implemented significant process improvements for the Department and has piloted workforce initiatives such as quality workplace, expanded telework, and remote worker programs. She oversees a staff of 175 access professionals.
James Hershberg is a Professor of History and International Affairs at the George Washington University. He has had experience with FOIA as a historian ever since working on his undergraduate history thesis at Harvard more than three decades ago which ultimately turned into his first book, James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age (Knopf, 1993; Stanford UP, 1995). Since then he has used the FOIA extensively on various Cold War era topics, including for his recent book on the secret diplomacy of the Vietnam War (Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam (Stanford UP/Wilson Center Press, 2012) and his current book project on Cuba, Brazil, and the Cold War. He has also dealt extensively with declassification issues on an international scale through his work as director of, the Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project, which he ran from 1991-97 and remains intimately involved with (he edits the CWIHP Book Series, co-published by the Stanford University and Wilson Center Presses), and through his long friendly relations with the National Security Archive, beginning with his work on the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan administration. Dr. Hershberg received his BA in History from Harvard, College in 1982; a Master's in International and Public Affairs from Columbia University in 1985; and his Ph. D. from Tufts University.
Sarah Kotler is the Director of the Food and Drug Administration's Division of Freedom of Information. Since joining the division, Ms. Kotler has overseen a 70 percent reduction in FDA's FOIA backlog, improved processing efficiencies across the agency, increased the number of records posted proactively, and worked with the requester community to improve the FDA's FOIA Program. Prior to joining the Division of Freedom of Information, Ms. Kotler was an attorney with FDA's Office of Chief Counsel and an attorney in private practice. She holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and J.D. from Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Nate Jones is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Coordinator for the National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at George Washington University (GWU). Mr. Jones oversees thousands of FOIA and Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests and hundreds of FOIA and MDR appeals that the Archive submits each year. He acts as liaison between Archive analysts and government FOIA officers, serves as the Archive's FOIA counselor to the public, edits the Archive's blog “Unredacted,” and manages its social media. He earned his master’s degree in Cold War History from GWU, where he wrote his thesis on— and submitted FOIA requests about—the 1983 "Able Archer" nuclear war scare. He continues to submit FOIA requests for, publish, and analyze documents on the 1983 incident. Mr. Jones is on the Board of Directors for the American Society of Access Professionals.
Chis Knox is the Advisory Director for Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP. For over 2 decades, Chris Knox has provided complex crisis information management support services including Discovery, FOIA, and Congressional inquiry responses to Federal Government clients. He leads Deloitte’s FOIA offering, he has proven, large-scale national operations expertise including direct client service, corporate-wide operations, and technology. Specifically, he has been instrumental in transforming the response to large-scale crisis-driven requests for information utilizing a unique combination of workflow, content-based analytics, machine learning and predictive redactions. Mr. Knox also provides executive leadership for Federal litigation support transactional operations and is responsible for all Federal litigation support security, development, and hosting operations. He has created an industry-wide Code of Practice in review by ARMA.
Margaret Kwoka is a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law where her research and teaching focus on government transparency and executive branch accountability. She has authored numerous scholarly articles examining the current state of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and possible reforms, including a recent empirical study of the commercial use of FOIA at six federal agencies that was published in the Duke Law Journal and previous works that appear in the Boston College Law Review, U.C. Davis Law Review, Maryland Law Review, and American University Law Review, among others. Her academic work has been cited in various decisions of federal courts in FOIA cases, she presents her work on FOIA frequently around the country, and she is regularly quoted in national media concerning FOIA cases and FOIA reforms. She also makes frequent FOIA requests herself to gather information for her research. Prior to joining the University, Professor Kwoka was an attorney at Public Citizen Litigation Group, a public interest law firm in Washington, D.C., where she focused on FOIA litigation. She also clerked for Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza, Massachusetts Appeals Court, and Judge Michael Murphy, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. She holds an A.B. from Brown University and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.
Raynell Lazier is the FOIA Manager for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
In this role, she facilitates the Bureau’s compliance with FOIA and the Privacy Act. With more than 15 years of government service, Raynell is especially interested in government transparency, and works consistently with her programs to clarify the intersection between the public’s right to access information and the government’s obligation to protect certain information. Prior to joining CFPB, Raynell was the National FOIA/Privacy Officer and National E-Forms Manager for the USDA Forest Service. She has also held similar positions within all three administrations of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where she served as Chief of Executive Correspondence, FOIA and Privacy Programs; Chief of Staff, and Special Assistant. Raynell also has experience in the private sector serving as an attorney and consultant, and as an officer and attorney in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. She graduated from Denison University with Bachelor degrees in Economics and Communications, and she received a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh.
Ginger McCall serves as an Attorney Advisor at the Department of Labor. In this role she has commented internally on proposed regulations, worked with components of the Department of Labor to fulfill FOIA requests, defended the Department in FOIA litigation, and commented on proposed FOIA legislation. Previously she was the Associate Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public interest research center, where she directed the Open Government Program. She managed EPIC's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation and worked on a variety of related issues, including consumer privacy protection, international privacy law, and national security matters.
Ms. McCall also taught a course on the Law of Open Government at Georgetown University Law Center. Ms. McCall co-edited Litigation Under the Federal Government Laws 2010 and has written for the New York Times and has co-authored several friend-of-the-court briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ms. McCall has spoken on privacy and open government issues in a variety of academic and conference venues, including the European Union’s MAPPING Project; the 2009 Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference; the Internet Governance Forum USA 2009 Conference; Duke Law School's Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security; and the New England Consortium of State Labor Relations Agencies 11th Annual Conference. Ms. McCall has also provided expert commentary for local, national, and international media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, NPR, MSNBC, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and Al Jazeera.
Sean Moulton is the Open Government Program Manager at POGO and oversees the effort to develop a “blueprint” the next president can use to build a more open and accountable administration. Before joining POGO, Mr. Moulton worked for over a decade on transparency and government accountability issues, with special attention to freedom of information issues, spending transparency, and environmental right-to-know policies. He has authored reports, testified before Congress, submitted comments on proposed regulations, and helped launch public disclosure websites. He has spoken on open government issues extensively with the media, having appeared on C-SPAN, NPR, ABC, and NBC and being quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major news publications. Mr. Moulton led the Center for Effective Government’s open government work for 13 years. He has also worked at Friends of the Earth, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council on Economic Priorities. In 2011 Mr. Moulton was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame. He holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and English from Albright College
Logan Perel serves as an Attorney Advisor with the Office of the Chief Counsel (Foreign Assets Control) at the Department of the Treasury. In this capacity, Mr. Perel is responsible for advising the Office of Foreign Assets Control with respect to the implementation, interpretation, and enforcement of economic sanctions programs administered by the Department. Mr. Perel previously served as Intelligence Counsel for the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security where he provided legal advice and counsel regarding the Department's Intelligence Enterprise and Information Safeguarding efforts, including Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests related to the Department's intelligence activities. Mr. Perel also previously served as Assistant Counsel to the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security, where he worked on Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act litigation matters. Mr. Perel earned his J.D.,cum laude, and his National Security Law LL.M., with distinction, at Georgetown University and his B.A., cum laude, in Political Science at the University of Florida. Mr. Perel is a Certified International Privacy Professional/Government and a member of the Florida and District of Columbia Bars.
David Pritzker is the Deputy General Counsel for the Administrative Conference of the United States; ACUS. He brings to the FOIA Advisory Committee, 40 years of experience as a Federal agency attorney, specializing in administrative law, including FOIA. He has extensive experience in regulation, alternative dispute resolution and advisory Committee processes. In 2014, Mr. Pritzker received the Mary C. Lawton Award for Outstanding Government Service from the American Bar Association's Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. Mr. Pritzker earned a law degree from Cornell University, and a Master’s degree in mathematics from Brandeis and a Bachelor’s degree from Yale.
Melanie Ann Pustay is the Director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) which has statutory responsibility for encouraging and overseeing agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). OIP provides training and counseling services government wide. Since becoming Director in 2007, Ms. Pustay has issued policy guidance for agency personnel on a wide range of issues related to FOIA implementation, including guidance on the President’s FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines. She develops reporting requirements for agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports and regularly assesses agency progress. Ms. Pustay is the editor-in-chief of the Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, a comprehensive legal treatise on FOIA. Ms. Pustay regularly lectures on current FOIA issues. Since 2003, she has worked extensively with government officials in numerous countries, including Argentina, Chile, and China, as well as the Organization of American States, to assist officials in implementing open-government initiatives. Ms. Pustay received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award for her role in providing legal advice and guidance on records disclosure issues.
Alina M. Semo (Chair)
Alina M. Semo is the Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman’s office, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Prior to joining OGIS, Ms. Semo served as the Director of Litigation in NARA's Office of General Counsel for two and a half years. Before coming to NARA, Ms. Semo led the FOIA Litigation Unit in the Office of the General Counsel at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for over ten years, and also served as an Assistant General Counsel in the Litigation Branch for nearly five years. Ms. Semo began her federal government career as a Department of Justice trial attorney and later senior counsel in the Federal Programs Branch, Civil Division, from 1991 to 1999, and from 1988 to 1991 worked as an associate at Hopkins & Sutter in Washington, D.C. Ms. Semo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law School; she is licensed in the District of Columbia and Maryland.
Thomas Susman is the Director of the Governmental Affairs Office of the American Bar Association (ABA), a position he has held since 2008. He joined the ABA after 27 years as a partner in the law firm of Ropes & Gray. Before that, he was Chief Counsel to the Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure, and held other government positions.
Mr. Susman’s involvement with FOIA began when, as a member of the U.S. Justice Department in 1968, he advised federal agencies regarding the new law. In his Senate position, he was the principal staff lawyer for enactment of the 1974 Freedom of Information Act Amendments. At Ropes & Gray, he handled many FOIA-related litigation and regulatory matters, including the work that resulted in the issuance of President Reagan's Executive Order requiring agencies to give notice to submitters before releasing confidential business information. At the ABA, he has continued his leading role in addressing FOIA matters. He is Founding President and a Board Member of the D.C. Open Government Coalition; on the Board of the National Freedom of Information Coalition; on the Steering Committee of OpenTheGovernment.org, and has served on many other relevant Boards. He has often testified, addressed conferences and taught on FOIA and related subjects.
In 2007 Mr. Susman was inducted into the Freedom of Information Hall of Fame, in 2008 received the first FOIA Legend Award from The American University, and in 2009 received the James Madison Award from the American Library Association as a champion of access to government information.
Since October 2013, Mr. Valvo has been Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor at Cause of Action Institute where he regularly uses FOIA as an oversight and accountability tool to advance the organization’s mission to cabin agency discretion. He monitors proposed FOIA regulations and submits substantive comments to help shape new rules. He also engages with the Office of Government Information Services and is an active member of Open the Government, a coalition of nonprofit organizations that advocate for government transparency. He played an instrumental role in securing the D.C. Circuit’s recent opinion in Cause of Action v. Federal Trade Commission, 799 F.3d 1108 (D.C. Cir. 2015), ensuring agencies abide by the Open Government Act of 2007 amendment to the definition of “a representative of the news media.”
Prior to his time at Cause of Action Institute, Mr. Valvo was the Director of Policy at Americans for Prosperity. He graduated summa cum laude with honors from American University’s School of Public Affairs with a degree in political science and cum laude from American University’s Washington College of Law. Mr. Valvo is a 2008 Harry S. Truman Scholar representing the District of Columbia.
Lynn Walsh has more than ten years of experience as an investigative journalist, working in TV and online mediums. Currently she leads the investigative unit at NBC in San Diego. She also serves on the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) FOIA committee and current President-Elect. Lynn is a member of the Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Radio Television and Digital News Association. She use FOIA on a regular basis in her current and previous roles to obtain information for investigative stories. She is active in the FOIA and open government community. For SPJ she spearheaded many national pushes to educate and encourage journalists and the public on FOIA and public information issues. Some of those initiatives have involved partnering with groups like MuckRock and community groups. As a working journalist, she sees first hand what common issues come up when submitting a FOIA.
The Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee created three subcommittees to support the Committee's functions. All subcommittees will report their work and findings to the Committee for deliberation. The FOIA Advisory Committee has subcommittees for the following areas:
- Efficiency and Resources
- Proactive Disclosure
- FOIA Searches
The following recommendations are described in the Final Report and Recommendations of the 2016-2018 FOIA Advisory Committee(April 17, 2018).
The Committee recommends that the Archivist take the following actions:
- Propose that the CFO Council seek to establish a technology subcommittee, in partnership with the CIO Council, to study the utilization and deployment of FOIA technology across agencies and identify best practices and recommendations that can be implemented across agencies.
- Request that OIP collect detailed information, as part of each agency’s CFO Report, regarding the specific methods and technologies agencies are using to search their electronic records, including email. Potential topics to be covered include agencies’ procurement of technology, ability to search email, acquisition of e-discovery tools, and availability of information on agencies’ websites that helps requesters understand the agencies’ record keeping systems and be better able to submit targeted requests.
- Suggest a modification to the FAR to require all agencies, when acquiring electronic records management software, electronic mail software, and other records-related information technology (IT), to consider features that will help facilitate the agencies’ responsibilities under FOIA to provide access to federal agency records.
FOIA and Accessibility
- Launch an interagency effort to develop standard requirements for FOIA processing tools, to ensure that both the tools and their outputs are Section 508-compliant.
- Request that OGIS conduct an assessment of the methods undertaken by agencies to prepare documents for posting on agency FOIA reading rooms.
- Encourage OGIS to highlight the issues with proactive disclosure and Section 508 compliance in its report to Congress by recommending that legislation be enacted to clarify agency requirements under the Rehabilitation Act, especially as they relate to proactive posting of large numbers of records.
FOIA Performance Standards
- Direct OGIS to examine the use of appropriate performance standards in federal employee appraisal records and work plans to ensure compliance with the requirements of FOIA. The Committee further recommends that OGIS submit the results of its assessment and any recommendations to Congress and the President in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552 (h)(5).