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 2020.
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
- Committee's Official Designation: The name of this advisory committee shall be the Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee (FOIA Advisory Committee).
- Authority: The FOIA Advisory Committee was first established in 2014 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 (OGIS) within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) "identify procedures and methods for improving compliance" with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FOIA Advisory Committee is governed by the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended, 5 U.S.C. App.
- Objectives and Scope of Activities: The FOIA Advisory Committee advises on improvements to the administration of FOIA. The objective of the FOIA Advisory Committee is to study the current FOIA landscape across the Executive Branch and to make recommendations to the Archivist of the United States.
- Description of Duties: The FOIA Advisory 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 FOIA Advisory Committee is advisory only.
- Official(s) to whom the Committee Reports: The FOIA Advisory Committee shall report to the Archivist of the United States.
- Support: NARA's OGIS will provide funding and administrative support for the FOIA Advisory Committee to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.
- Estimated Annual Operating Costs and Staff Years: The annual operating cost for the FOIA Advisory Committee is estimated to be $90,000 and one full staff year. There will be no compensation for members of the FOIA Advisory Committee. Travel and/or per diem costs will not be provided by NARA.
- Designated Federal Officer (DFO): The DFO (or designee) is a full-time or permanent part-time employee, appointed in accordance with agency procedures, 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 FOIA Advisory Committee and provide such clerical, administrative, and logistical support as necessary for the FOIA Advisory Committee to effectively conduct its business. The DFO will approve or call all of the advisory committee's and subcommittees' meetings, prepare and approve all meeting agendas, attend all committee and subcommittee meetings, adjourn any meeting when the DFO determines adjournment to be in the public interest, and chair meetings when directed to do so by the official to whom the advisory committee reports.
- 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.
- Duration: The need for this FOIA Advisory Committee is continuing.
- Termination: The Charter shall be eligible for renewal every two years.
- Membership and Designation: The FOIA Advisory Committee will consist of no more than 20 individuals. Government members of the FOIA Advisory 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 OGIS, or his/her designee, will chair the committee. Non-governmental members of the FOIA 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 FOIA Advisory 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 FOIA Advisory Committee, in consultation with the Archivist of the United States. The Chairperson is the presiding officer of the FOIA Advisory 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 FOIA Advisory 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 FOIA Advisory Committee meeting minutes. The Vice Chairperson shall assume and perform the duties of the Chairperson in the event the Chairperson is absent or unavailable.
- Subcommittees: NARA may approve the creation of subcommittees by the FOIA Advisory Committee as necessary to support the committee's work. The subcommittees report to the full FOIA Advisory Committee. The subcommittee chairperson(s) shall be a Committee member(s).
- Recordkeeping: The records of the FOIA Advisory 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 Ferriero appointed 20 members to the FOIA Advisory Committee in June 2018. The Committee consists of 9 members from within the Federal government and 11 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, National Archives and Records Administration, Office of Government Information Services
- Joan Kaminer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Lizzette Katilius, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
- Sarah Kotler, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration
- Ryan Law, U.S. Department of the Treasury
- Abioye Mosheim, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Bobak Talebian, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy
- Patricia Weth, National Labor Relations Board
- Bradley White, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Jason R. Baron, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
- Emily Creighton, American Immigration Council
- Kevin M. Goldberg, Digital Media Association (DiMA)
- James R. Jacobs, Stanford University Libraries
- Chris Knox, Deloitte
- Michael Morisy, MuckRock
- Sean Moulton, Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
- Suzanne J. Piotrowski, Rutgers University School of Public Affairs and Administration
- Lee Steven, Cause of Action Institute
- James R. Stocker, Trinity Washington University
- Thomas Susman, American Bar Association
Jason R. Baron
Jason R. Baron is Of Counsel to the Information Governance and eDiscovery Group at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, in Washington, DC. He is an internationally-recognized speaker and author on the preservation of electronic documents and has written and lectured widely on the subject of integrating best practices in e-discovery searches into the FOIA realm. Mr. Baron previously served as Director of Litigation for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and as the trial lawyer and senior counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). In those roles, Mr. Baron helped drive the government’s adoption of electronic recordkeeping practices and defended the government’s interests in complex federal court litigation. As NARA’s Director of Litigation, he supervised the NARA’s FOIA Officer and Deputy Officer, prepared and reviewed FOIA appeals for signature by the Deputy Archivist, and actively worked with DOJ in FOIA litigation. Mr. Baron holds a BA from Wesleyan University and a JD from Boston University School of Law.
Emily Creighton is the Deputy Legal Director at the American Immigration Council. She oversees the development of the Council’s legal education, non-litigation advocacy, and FOIA work, and supports the Immigration Justice Campaign. Prior to joining the Council, she served as the Senior Advisor on Humanitarian Programs at the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office from 2016 to 2017. Before that, she was a Senior Staff Attorney with the Council, and engaged in impact litigation, representing amicus curiae in immigration cases in federal court and before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and authored numerous practice advisories. Ms. Creighton holds a BA from Boston College and a JD from American University Washington College of Law.
Kevin M. Goldberg
Kevin M. Goldberg is the Vice President, Legal for the Digital Media Association (DiMA). Before joining DiMA, he served as both counselor to – and advocate for – several major press organizations including the American Society of News Editors and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He offered legal guidance on organizational matters such as corporate formation, drafting of bylaws and membership policies, and acquisition and compliance with non-profit tax status. Mr. Goldberg is an experienced advocate who has appeared before federal and state legislatures and executive agencies. He has had a hand in the drafting and passage of several major bills revising the FOIA; similar state acts, state laws affecting defamation, copyright, and personal privacy. He has prepared or assisted in the preparation of testimony for members of client organizations testifying before Congress and has himself testified regarding FOIA implementation. He also conducted training sessions and webinars for the organization’s members. Mr. Goldberg holds a BA from James Madison University and a JD from The George Washington University National Law Center.
James R. Jacobs
James R. Jacobs is the US Government Information Librarian and Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) coordinator at Stanford University Libraries where his focus is on academic research support – including FOIA requests and use of information obtained through the use of FOIA for research purposes – traditional collection development as well as digital projects like LOCKSS-USDOCS and Web harvesting (e.g., FOIA Web archive (archive-it.org/collections/924)). Mr. Jacobs is an active member of ALA's Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) and served a three-year term (2009–2012) on the Depository Library Council (DLC) to the US Public Printer, including serving as DLC Chair from 2011–2012. He is a co-founder of Free Government Information (FGI) (freegovinfo.info) which builds consensus among libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers and journalists who have a stake in the preservation of – and perpetual free access to – government information. Mr. Jacobs holds a BA from SUNY at Cortland and an MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Joan Kaminer is an attorney-advisor with the Office of General Counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She specializes in information law and provides legal counsel on a host of issues including FOIA, cybersecurity, controlled unclassified information, and confidential business information. She also serves as the EPA’s lead attorney on national security law issues. Ms. Kaminer regularly provides training to EPA attorneys and staff on FOIA processing, FOIA exemptions, and eDiscovery tools. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a Senior Litigation Analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency managing high-profile and complex litigation, including challenging class action FOIA litigations. Ms. Kaminer holds a BA from the University of Georgia, a JD from Catholic University Columbus School of Law, and an ML from the University of Maryland.
Lizzette Katilius is the FOIA Branch Manager at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where she oversees all aspects of FOIA workflow processes, including initial processing of 13,000+ requests annually and website improvements. Ms. Katilius has over 15 years of experience in FOIA, and began her FOIA career as a FOIA Specialist in the Office of the Secretary at the Department of Interior. She subsequently served as a FOIA Officer at both the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While at the VA, Ms. Katilius worked on the contract and implementation of a department-wide electronic FOIA tracking system. Ms. Katilius holds a BA from Radford University and JD from Seton Hall University School of Law.
Chris Knox is a Director in Deloitte’s Forensics and Investigations market offering. Mr. Knox provides complex, crisis-driven information response services including eDiscovery, FOIA, and Congressional inquiry responses to federal government clients. He is a leader in Deloitte’s FOIA offering. 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 contracts including delivery and Profit ∓ Loss responsibility. He has also held responsibilities for litigation support hosting security (FISMA certified), custom development and production operations. Mr. Knox holds a BS from the University of Texas and an MBA from Syracuse University.
Sarah Kotler is the Director of the Division of Freedom of Information at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since joining the Division, Ms. Kotler has overseen a 70 percent reduction in FDA's FOIA backlog and improved processing efficiencies across the agency. She has increased the number of records posted proactively by the Division and has 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 the FDA's Office of Chief Counsel and, before that time, an attorney in private practice. She holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and JD from Harvard Law School.
Ryan Law is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Privacy, Transparency, and Records at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In this role, he leads Treasury’s Privacy and Civil Liberties, FOIA, Records and Information Management, Paperwork Reduction Act, Federal Advisory Committee Act, Orders and Directives, and Library policies and programs. Mr. Law first joined Treasury in 2013 as the Director for FOIA and Transparency, where he was responsible for the oversight and management of Treasury-wide FOIA policy and administration. In this role, he led an effort to centralize Treasury headquarters FOIA processing and oversight within the Office of Privacy, Transparency, and Records. Prior to joining Treasury, Mr. Law served as an Analyst, Senior Analyst, Supervisory Analyst, and as Deputy Director in charge of the FOIA program at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At ICE, Mr. Law was responsible for the day-to-day administration and processing of more than 65,000 FOIA requests and appeals. He began his federal career as a FOIA Analyst at the Transportation Security Administration. Mr. Law holds an AA from the College of Southern Maryland and a BAS from Towson University.
Michael Morisy is the founder and chief executive of the non-profit FOIA tool and news site “MuckRock” that has worked with over 10,000 requesters to file, track, and share their federal FOIA and other public records requests. The site is visited by millions of readers each year who benefit from its in-depth guides, accessible reporting, and a variety of transparency tools and resources. Mr. Morisy was previously an editor at the Boston Globe, a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University, and is a member of the boards of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the American Society of Access Professionals. Mr. Morisy holds a BA from Cornell University.
Abioye Mosheim serves as the Chief FOIA Officer and Assistant General Counsel for FOIA, Privacy, and Records at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. She oversees the daily operations of the Commission’s FOIA program, and reviews, revises and implements process changes to keep the program in compliance with the FOIA statute and regulations. She previously served as an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Copyright Office, where she handled complex and sensitive initial FOIA requests, worked directly with requesters to narrow requests, conducted FOIA research, advised senior counsel, and drafted responses to requests. Ms. Mosheim holds a BA from Mills College and a JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law.
Sean Moulton is the Senior Policy Analyst 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.
Suzanne J. Piotrowski
Suzanne J. Piotrowski is an Associate Professor of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark and Director of the Transparency and Governance Center. Previously she served as the Deputy Dean for the School of Public Affairs and Administration and held the position of Faculty Fellow in the Office of the Chancellor at Rutgers University-Newark for the 2009-2010 academic year. While on research leave in 2017, Dr. Piotrowski was an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Politics at University College London. Her primary research project during her 2017-2018 research leave is a book project assessing the efficacy of the Open Government Partnership in meeting its goals to supplant the historical tensions between performance and democratic accountability. Dr. Piotrowski's research focuses on mission-extrinsic values in public administration, including administrative transparency and open government. She writes widely on public management, accountability, and transparency issues and publishes extensively in academic journals and edited volumes. She has authored the book Governmental Transparency in the Path of Administrative Reform (2007) and edited Governmental Transparency and Secrecy: Linking Literature and Contemporary Debate (2010). Dr. Piotrowski holds a BS from James Madison University, an MPA from the University of Delaware, and a Ph.D. from American University.
Alina M. Semo
Alina M. Semo is the Director of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and serves as the FOIA Ombudsman. Prior to joining OGIS in December 2016, Ms. Semo served as the Director of Litigation in NARA's Office of General Counsel. Before coming to NARA, Ms. Semo created and served as the Unit Chief for the FOIA Litigation Unit in the Office of the General Counsel at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and also served as an Assistant General Counsel in the Litigation Branch. Ms. Semo began her federal government career as a U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney and later senior counsel in the Federal Programs Branch, Civil Division; and worked as a litigation and corporate associate at Hopkins & Sutter in Washington, DC. Ms. Semo holds a BA from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a JD from Georgetown University Law School.
Lee Steven is the Assistant Vice President of Cause of Action Institute (COAI), where he has been overseeing and managing both litigation and investigation matters since the beginning of 2015. Before joining COAI, Mr. Steven spent 16 years in private practice with the international arbitration group of White a∓ Case LLP in Washington, DC, where he represented both investor and State clients in international disputes across a broad range of industry sectors and advised sovereign clients, international organizations, and private parties on matters of public international law, international and cross-border dispute resolution, and bilateral investment treaties. Mr. Steven holds a BA from Wheaton College, an MA from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law.
James R. Stocker
James R. Stocker is an Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Program Chair at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC, where he served as a Visiting Assistant Professor from 2012 to 2014. Dr. Stocker is a historian of U.S. Foreign Relations and modern Middle Eastern History. He wrote Spheres of Intervention: US Foreign Policy and the Collapse of Lebanon (1967-1976), Cornell University Press (2016), and is writing his second book on American diplomacy in the post-Cold War era. Dr. Stocker has had numerous articles, book chapters, and book reviews published, including seven peer-reviewed articles. His archival research experience includes the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC, and College Park, MD; the Library of Congress Special Collections; and NARA’s Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton Presidential Libraries. Dr. Stocker has filed hundreds of FOIA and Mandatory Declassification Review requests with more than 10 agencies. Dr. Stocker is a member of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), the International Studies Association (ISA) and the Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA). He also has a background in business and technology. He holds a PhD and an MA in International Relations (History and Politics) from The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies at the University of Geneva, Switzerland; and a BA in International Relations and Foreign Languages from Hendrix College.
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 the enactment of the 1974 FOIA Amendments. At Ropes & Gray, he handled many FOIA-related litigations 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, and has served on many other relevant Boards. He has often testified, addressed conferences and taught on FOIA and related subjects. Mr. Susman holds a BA from Yale University and a JD from the University of Texas School of Law.
Bobak Talebian began serving as the Acting Director of the Office of Information Policy of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in October 2019. The Office of Information Policy (OIP) is responsible for developing FOIA policy guidance for Executive Branch agencies, providing legal counsel and training to agency personnel on the procedural and substantive aspects of the Act, and for encouraging agency compliance with the law. Before becoming Acting Director, Mr. Talebian served as Acting Chief of Staff of OIP and Chief of OIP's FOIA Compliance Staff. Mr. Talebian spent three years adjudicating administrative appeals from initial FOIA request determinations made by DOJ components. In addition to serving as an instructor for FOIA training programs, Mr. Talebian provides FOIA legal advice to various federal agencies. Mr. Talebian spent two years as an attorney-advisor for an administrative law judge in the U.S. Department of Labor. Mr. Talebian is a 2008 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law where he served on the Tennessee Law Review. He received his B.A. in political science and philosophy from Kenyon College.
Patricia Weth is the Deputy Assistant General Counsel in the FOIA Branch of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and serves as the FOIA Public Liaison. She assists the Branch Chief in the development of FOIA policies and procedures and is responsible for direct supervision of the FOIA Branch staff. She also has experience working in FOIA at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Energy, Export-Import Bank, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ms. Weth holds a BA from Loyola College and JD from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law.
Bradley White is Senior Director of FOIA Litigation, Appeals and Policy at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In addition to overseeing DHS FOIA appeals and litigation, he oversees the Department’s FOIA compliance and training programs. He was previously the FOIA Officer for DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), where he processed or reviewed all DHS headquarters FOIA responses that contained CRCL records, coordinated responses on high-profile and complex FOIA requests that involved multiple DHS components, and assisted in all aspects of the DHS Privacy Office responses to FOIA requests in litigation. Prior to joining CRCL, he worked in the FOIA office at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more than seven years. Mr. White holds a BA from American University and JD from American University Washington College of Law.
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:
- Records Management
The Final Report and Recommendations of the 2018-2020 FOIA Advisory Committee(July 9, 2020) describes the following recommendations:
Recommendations for the National Archives and Records Administration, the Office of Government Information Services, U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy, and federal agencies.
Enhancing Online Access
1. We recommend that the Office of Government Information Services undertake an assessment of the information agencies make publicly available on their FOIA websites to facilitate the FOIA filing process, and for the purpose of informing further guidance by the Office of Information Policy on how agencies may improve online descriptions of the process.
2. We recommend that the Office of Information Policy issue guidance to require agencies to include records management-related materials as part of agency websites and FOIA handbooks maintained pursuant to FOIA.
3. We recommend that agencies work toward the goal of collecting, describing, and giving access to FOIA-released records in one or more central repositories in standardized ways, in addition to providing access on agency websites.
4. We recommend that the National Archives and Records Administration and the Office of Information Policy offer targeted training in selected topics in federal records management to FOIA officers and FOIA Public Liaisons in federal agencies, and otherwise include a FOIA module in selected records management training courses open to all federal employees.
5. We recommend that the Office of Information Policy issue guidance requesting agencies to provide annual mandatory FOIA training to all agency employees, as well as provide FOIA training to all new agency employees and contractors onboarding with an agency, including program-specific training if applicable. We further recommend that the Office of Government Information Services and the Office of Information Policy undertake a study of agencies’ current FOIA training requirements and content.
6. We recommend that the Office of Government Information Services and the Office of Information Policy assist agencies in establishing briefings for senior leaders during transition to a new administration or any change in senior leadership, for the purpose of providing a thorough understanding of their agency’s FOIA resources, obligations, and expectations during the FOIA process, as well as on matters of records management.
Raising the Profile of FOIA within Agencies
7. We recommend that the Office of Government Information Services and the Office of Information Policy examine the FOIA performance measures used in Agency Performance Plans and Reports to encourage agencies to include FOIA in their performance plans. We further recommend that the Office of Government Information Services submit the results of its assessment and any recommendations to Congress and the President in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(h)(5).
8. We recommend that the Office of Information Policy collect information as part of each agency’s Chief FOIA Officer Report regarding standard operating procedures for the processing of FOIA requests to increase public transparency and to encourage agencies to improve their internal processes.
9. We recommend that the National Archives and Records Administration incorporate and further develop the idea of public access to federal records, including through FOIA, as part of its Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative.
10. We recommend that the National Archives and Records Administration and the Office of Information Policy each establish a liaison with the newly created Chief Data Officers Council for the purpose of ensuring that Council officials understand the importance of federal recordkeeping and FOIA requirements and how such laws apply to the maintenance of data within agencies.
Embracing New Technologies
11. We recommend that the Office of Information Policy provide further guidance on the use of e-discovery tools to assist agencies in meeting their obligations to conduct an adequate search of electronic records, including but not limited to email in Capstone repositories.
12. We recommend that agencies release FOIA documents to the public on their FOIA websites and in FOIA portals in open, legible, machine-readable and machine-actionable formats, to the extent feasible.
13. We recommend that agencies conduct a comprehensive review of their technological and staffing capabilities within two years to identify the resources needed to respond to current and anticipated future FOIA demands.
Providing Alternatives to FOIA Access
14. We recommend that the Office of Government Information Services and the Office of Information Policy have agencies identify common categories of records requested frequently under the FOIA and/or Privacy Act by or on behalf of individuals seeking records about themselves, for the purpose of establishing alternative processes for providing access to these records to requesters in a more efficient manner than the FOIA.
15. We recommend that agencies provide for the dissemination of information outside of FOIA, including in online databases where members of the public may access commonly requested types of documents.
Recommendations for the Chief FOIA Officers Council
16. We recommend that the Chief FOIA Officers Council create a committee for cross-agency collaboration and innovation to:
▪ Research and propose a cross-agency grant program and other revenue resources for FOIA programs;
▪ Review and promote initiatives for clear career trajectories for FOIA professionals, building on the Government Information Specialist job series and in coordination with existing agency efforts; and
▪ Explore and recommend models to align agency resources with a commitment to agency transparency.
17. We propose that the Chief FOIA Officers Council recommend that agency leadership annually issue a memorandum reminding the workforce of its responsibilities and obligations under FOIA and encouraging the workforce to contact the agency’s FOIA Officer for assistance with the FOIA process.
Recommendation for the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency
18. We recommend that the Chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency consider designating as a cross-cutting project or priority area the issue of how successful agencies are in providing FOIA access to agency records in electronic or digital form.
Recommendations for Congress
19. We recommend that Congress engage in more regular and robust oversight of FOIA and the long-standing problems with its implementation; that Congress hold more hearings, establish a more regular and coordinated stream of communication and inquiries to agencies around FOIA issues; and that Congress strengthen the Office of Government Information Services with clearer authority and expanded resources.
20. We recommend that Congress directly address the issue of funding for FOIA offices and ensure that agencies receive and commit sufficient dedicated resources to meet their legal obligations to respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner both today and in the future.
Additional Recommendations: Looking to the Future
21. The Archivist should continue to take a leadership role in ensuring that ongoing and future federal data strategies incorporate existing FOIA access and federal recordkeeping policies.
22. The Archivist should work with other governmental components and industry in promoting research into using artificial intelligence, including machine learning technologies, to (i) improve the ability to search through government electronic record repositories for responsive records to FOIA requests and (ii) identify sensitive material for potential segregation in government records, including but not limited to material otherwise within the scope of existing FOIA exemptions and exclusions.
Federal FOIA Advisory Committee