The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 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.
The 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee created the following four subcommittees to support the Committee's functions:
- Classification Subcommittee
Co-Chairs: Kristin Ellis, Federal Bureau of Investigation and James R. Stocker, Trinity Washington University
- Legislation Subcommittee
Co-Chairs: Kel McClanahan, National Security Counselors and Patricia Weth, National Labor Relations Board
- Process Subcommittee
Co-Chairs: Alexis Graves, Department of Agriculture and Michael Morisy, MuckRock
- Technology Subcommittee
Co-Chairs: Allyson Deitrick, U.S. Department of Commerce and Jason Gart, History Associates Incorporated
Each subcommittee has a government co-chair and a non-government co-chair. All subcommittees will report their work and findings to the Committee for deliberation.
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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://www.archives.gov/ogis/foia-advisory-committee/2020-2022-term 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.
File Date: May 7, 2020
/s/ David S. Ferriero
DAVID S. FERRIERO
Archivist of the United States
Former Archivist of the United States David Ferriero appointed 20 members to the FOIA Advisory Committee in July 2020. 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, National Archives and Records Administration, Office of Government Information Services
- Roger Andoh, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Allyson Deitrick, U.S. Department of Commerce
- Kristin Ellis, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Linda Frye, Social Security Administration
- Alexis Graves, U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Matthew Schwarz, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Dione J. Stearns, Federal Trade Commission
- Bobak Talebian, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy
- Patricia Weth, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Allan Blutstein, America Rising
- David Cuillier, University of Arizona
- Jason Gart, History Associates Incorporated
- Kel McClanahan, National Security Counselors
- Michael Morisy, MuckRock
- Alexandra Perloff-Giles, The New York Times Co.
- Tuan N. Samahon, Villanova University
- James R. Stocker, Trinity Washington University
- Thomas Susman, American Bar Association
- A. Jay Wagner, Marquette University
Roger Andoh is the FOIA Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mr. Andoh’s FOIA experience at several federal agencies includes leading the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Significant Interest Group (SIG) through processing multiple FOIA requests seeking information about the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. While serving as the FOIA officer for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), he used technology to improve the FOIA program. In his current role at CDC, he led a team focused on reducing its FOIA backlog from over 700 requests to 18 requests in three years with no increase in staffing. In 2014, he received the Greater Kansas City Federal Executive Board Federal Employee Distinguished Leadership Award. Mr. Andoh has a JD from Western Michigan University, certification in Strategic Organizational Leadership from Villanova University, and an Executive Leadership Certificate from Cornell.
Allan Blutstein is Senior Vice President at America Rising Political Action Committee. He began his career at the Social Security Administration and the New York City Department of Health, and later moved to working in FOIA litigation at the U.S. Department of Justice. He spent four years as the principal legal advisor to the FOIA office for the Troubled Asset Relief Program of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he counseled on such issues as information disclosure, rulemaking, trade secret protection, and oversight requests. In 2013, Mr. Blutstein transitioned to the requester community when he joined the Cause of Action Institute as Managing Counsel. Two years later he founded the “FOIA Advisor” website for the FOIA community to learn the latest FOIA news, court decisions, and commentary. The American Bar Association Journal has recognized “FOIA Advisor” as a Top 100 legal blog. Mr. Blutstein holds a JD from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a BS from the University of the State of New York.
David Cuillier is Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor at the University of Arizona School of Journalism. A former newspaper reporter and editor in the Pacific Northwest, he is founding editor of the open-access peer-reviewed Journal of Civic Information, co-author of the books The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records, and Transparency 2.0: Digital Data and Privacy in a Wired World. Dr. Cuillier is the former president and FOI chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, is the current board president for the National Freedom of Information Coalition, and writes the “FOI Files” column for The IRE Journal, the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ magazine. He assisted the country of Barbados in developing its FOIA law, and in 2010, he drove 15,000 miles for 45 days through the US to give 53 FOI training seminars to journalists and citizens. Dr. Cuillier’s dissertation examined conceptualizing support for press access to government records. He holds a PhD and MA from the University of Washington and BA from Western Washington University.
Allyson Deitrick is the Chief of the Information Law Division at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Her office oversees the Department’s administrative appeals of FOIA and Privacy Act requests, as well as matters related to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Trade Secrets Act, Paperwork Reduction Act, and records management. Ms. Deitrick is also involved with the Department’s implementation of the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) program. Prior to joining the Department of Commerce, she was in private practice, focusing on the privilege aspects of large-scale eDiscovery. Ms. Deitrick holds a JD from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America and a BA from Muhlenberg College.
Kristin Ellis is Section Chief of the Litigation and Technology Management Section of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) where she previously served as Associate General Counsel and Unit Chief of the FOIA Litigation Unit. Ms. Ellis has over a decade of experience litigating FOIA cases and advising on FOIA matters in three different agencies — the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC). She is regularly consulted for advice and guidance about FOIA, as well as a host of other information access, sharing, and disclosure issues, by officials at all levels within the FBI, DOJ, the Intelligence Community, and other federal and state agencies. Ms. Ellis began her career at OSC, where in addition to investigating and prosecuting violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Civil Service Reform Act, and the Hatch Act, she evaluated complaints alleging arbitrary and capricious withholding of information under the FOIA and defended OSC against a lawsuit seeking to force it to prosecute officials from another agency under the FOIA’s sanction provision. Ms. Ellis holds a JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law and a BS from The University of Toledo.
Linda Frye is a Government Information Specialist with the Social Security Administration (SSA). She is responsible for completing annual FOIA reporting and working with OGIS to respond to requester inquiries. Ms. Frye has worked to update SSA processes to meet the requirements in the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 and to ensure the agency is meeting requirements as recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, she is a program manager for the Skills Connect program at SSA. In this role she is responsible for training between eight and 12 employees to work annually with the FOIA team part-time to assist the division by completing simple FOIA cases in a timely manner. Ms. Frye earned her BS degree in accounting and business from Stevenson University.
Jason Gart is Vice President and Director of Litigation Research at History Associates Incorporated (HAI). His commercial FOIA requests have ranged from the straightforward to complex multi-year requests that have involved the release of thousands of pages of previously classified national security information. A professionally trained historian, Dr. Gart has also worked to design several proprietary databases at HAI that enable researchers to identify materials stored at Federal Records Centers. He has successfully collaborated with FOIA officers from across the federal government, including civilian departments, independent agencies, and the U.S. Department of Defense, to ensure that relevant documents are released efficiently and cost effectively. Dr. Gart received his PhD and MA from Arizona State University, where his dissertation examined electronics and the aerospace industry in Cold War Arizona. He earned his BS from Drexel University.
Alexis Graves is the FOIA Officer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Ms. Graves monitors the performance of 20 USDA offices that process FOIA requests, encouraging them to take steps to bring existing backlogs under control and assists the offices that struggle to meet backlog goals. She leads a USDA FOIA Council that meets monthly to discuss critical program issues and share best practices. Ms. Graves provides free and accessible training to give USDA FOIA professionals the tools they need to improve their ability to comply with the law. Ms. Graves has a JD from Howard University and a BA from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Kel McClanahan is Executive Director of National Security Counselors (NSC) which advocates on FOIA matters. Since completing law school, Mr. McClanahan has worked on FOIA requests to ensure adherence to legal requirements in courtrooms and in non-litigation settings. He has testified before Congress and on issues related to FOIA. In his work for NSC, he has represented clients who are members of the news media, historians, and academics. Mr. McClanahan has a JD from American University Washington College of Law, where he is an adjunct associate professor of law. He also holds a Master of Laws degree from Georgetown University Law Center, an MA from Georgetown University, and a BS from the University of South Carolina.
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. Millions of readers visit the site each year and 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.
Alexandra Perloff-Giles is an attorney with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher’s Media, Entertainment and Technology Group, where she represented White House correspondents Jim Acosta and Brian Karem in litigation regarding their press credentials. She was a 2019-2020 First Amendment Fellow at The New York Times where she was the principal attorney in charge of public records requests. Ms. Perloff-Giles began litigating FOIA cases as a student at Yale Law School. She was a law clerk for Judge Marsha S. Berzon of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. During her recent fellowship at The Times, Ms. Perloff-Giles advised reporters on public records issues, administrative appeals, law school clinics, negotiating with government attorneys, and drafting briefs related to FOIA lawsuits the paper is currently litigating. Ms. Perloff-Giles has a JD from Yale Law School, an MA from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and a BA from Harvard University.
Tuan N. Samahon
Tuan N. Samahon is a Professor of Law at Villanova University. The Stanford Law Review, Ohio State Law Journal, Hastings Law Journal, William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, University of Chicago Legal Forum, Denver Law Review, and Villanova Law Review have published his articles. Mr. Samahon has testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, and has served as counsel in separation-of-powers and FOIA litigation in federal trial and appellate courts. Mr. Samahon clerked for US District Judge Raymond A. Jackson in the Eastern District of Virginia and for Judge Jay S. Bybee of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 2017, Mr. Samahon was a Fulbright scholar with the law faculty at the University of Zagreb in Croatia where he lectured on FOIA. Prior to his teaching career he worked in private practice. Mr. Samahon received his JD from Georgetown University and his BA from Brigham Young University.
Matthew Schwarz is an Attorney-Advisor in the Information Law Practice Group with the Office of General Counsel at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Schwarz counsels on information law issues, including FOIA, the Privacy Act, and third-party subpoenas (“Touhy” matters), and handles complex FOIA litigation. He also is the Team Lead for FOIA administrative appeals where he coordinates a team of 14 attorneys who write the agency’s FOIA administrative appeal determinations. He regularly trains agency staff on topics such as FOIA processing, FOIA exemptions, the Privacy Act, and litigation. Prior to joining EPA, he served as a Senior Analyst at the U.S. Department of Energy, where he processed FOIA requests for the high-profile Loan Program. He holds a JD from Wake Forest University and a BA from North Carolina State 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 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 JD from Georgetown University Law School and a BA from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Dione J. Stearns
Dione J. Stearns is Assistant General Counsel for Information at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), where she oversees FOIA/Privacy Act processing. Before joining the FTC, Ms. Stearns served as an attorney advisor at the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) where her responsibilities included processing FOIA/Privacy Act requests and serving as agency counsel in FOIA litigation. She also trained the nation’s 94 U.S. Attorneys offices on FOIA and Privacy Act law. Ms. Stearns started her federal career as an attorney advisor with DOJ’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) where she processed department-wide FOIA appeals and trained senior-level officials and others on FOIA/Privacy Act policy and law.
Ms. Stearns holds a JD from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America and BA from Howard University.
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 US 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 Strategic Advisor, Governmental Affairs and Global Programs, at the American Bar Association (ABA), He joined the ABA in 2008 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 US Justice Department in 1968, he advised federal agencies on 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 DC Open Government Coalition; on the Board of the National Freedom of Information Coalition; on the Steering Committee of Open The Government, 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 JD from the University of Texas School of Law and a BA from Yale University.
Bobak Talebian is Director of the Office of Information Policy (OIP) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). OIP developings FOIA policy guidance for federal agencies, provides legal counsel and training to agency personnel on the procedural and substantive aspects of FOIA, and encourages agency compliance with the law. Before becoming Director, Mr. Talebian served as Acting Director, 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 BA in political science and philosophy from Kenyon College.
A. Jay Wagner
A. Jay Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Marquette University. His primary research interest is FOIA and state FOI laws. He has written extensively on FOIA subjects ranging from the Glomar response to the evolution of the law enforcement exemption. Peer-reviewed journals, law reviews, and newspaper editorials as well as on local television and radio news have featured his work. Dr. Wagner’s dissertation relied on a dataset of FOIA annual reports from Cabinet-level departments dating to 1975. His most recent research project involves an audit of 10 state FOI laws. The field experiment involved the submission and follow through on 1,114 requests across 338 counties and 100 state government bodies. Two scholarly papers are in process, one exploring demographic variables and the second focused on legal variables, examining what influences FOI processes and outcomes. Mr. Wagner holds a PhD from Indiana University, an MA from DePaul University, and a BA from the University of Dayton.
Patricia Weth is Assistant General Counsel in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She previously served as the Deputy Assistant General Counsel and FOIA Public Liaison at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) where she assisted the Branch Chief in developing FOIA policies and procedures, and directly supervised 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 JD from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America and a BA from Loyola College.
More information is available on the Committee's Meetings webpage.
- June 9, 2022
- May 5, 2022
- April 7, 2022
- March 10, 2022
- December 9, 2021
- September 9, 2021
- June 10, 2021
- March 3, 2021
- December 10, 2020
- September 10, 2020
At its June 10, 2021 meeting, the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee voted on and approved the following recommendation.
Recommendation No. 2021-01
Congress should adopt rules or enact legislation to establish procedures for effecting public access to legislative branch records in the possession of congressional support offices and agencies modeled after those procedures contained in the Freedom of Information Act. These should include requirements for proactive disclosure of certain information, procedures governing public requests for records, time limits for responding to requests, exemptions to be narrowly applied, and an appeal from any initial decision to deny access.
In its June 9, 2022, Final Report and Recommendations to the Archivist of the United States, the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee made the following recommendations:
The Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy (OIP) should issue guidance to agencies that they use the internationally recognized “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” (NCND) instead of Glomar.
Agencies should report annually on agency use of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”/Glomar responses.
Agencies should post on their FOIA websites information for requesters about “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”/Glomar responses.
A relevant organization should study the use of “Neither Confirm Nor Deny”/Glomar responses.
Executive order (EO) 13526 should be amended to require that in cases where information withheld from public release does not contain the markings specified in the governing Executive Order, agencies must add these markings.
The Archivist of the United States will request that the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community review agencies’ compliance with EO 13526 particularly as it related to marking of classified information
The Department of Justice Office of Information Policy (OIP) will encourage agencies to post on their FOIA websites certain information beyond what is required by law.
The Chief FOIA Officers Council will establish a working group within two years to determine best practices for release of records in native format, including metadata.
The Chief FOIA Officers Council should establish a working group to study and recommend resolutions to challenges between FOIA and 508 compliance.
Agencies should endeavor to provide regular and proactive online publication of searchable PDF logs containing certain information in Excel/CSV (comma-separated values) format.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Information Policy (OIP) will urge agencies to remove from first-person FOIA practice any records that agencies use to determine the individual’s eligibility for benefits or affect an individual in proceedings.
Agencies should amend any regulations, directives, policies, and guidance to provide individuals, regardless of whether they have legal representation in agency proceedings, access to records about themselves.
Agencies that receive first-person requests should identify the most commonly requested record and develop a plan for processing such records that leverages technology, and promotes efficiency and good customer service.
A comprehensive assessment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) processes, workforce and technology should be initiated as it relates to A-Files responsive to FOIA requests.
Congress should give OGIS the authority to make binding decisions.
Congress should give OGIS the authority to review records in camera.
Congress should create a direct line-item appropriation for OGIS.
Congress should increase OGIS’s budget.
The Archivist of the United States should commission a feasibility study, incorporating input from requesters and agencies, to more deeply explore the costs and benefits of recommendations 2022-15 through 2022-18, and refine the proposals to aid Congress in drafting legislation.
The Archivist of the United States (AOTUS) should restore OGIS as a direct report to AOTUS.
Oral comments presented to the 2020-2022 term of the FOIA Advisory Committee (Committee) are available in the meeting transcripts posted to the Committee's Meetings page and in the videos of the Committee meetings posted to the National Archives and Records Administration's YouTube Channel.
Written comments submitted to the 2020-2022 term of the Committee are available on the Committee's Public Comments Submitted to the FOIA Advisory Committee page.
Federal FOIA Advisory Committee