Public Comments Submitted by Robert Hammond on March 3, 2021 - Status of 2018 - 2020 Recommendation #19
From: Robert Hammond
To: FOIA Advisory Committee, Alina Semo, Kirsten Mitchell
Subject: PUBLIC COMMENT. RE: March 3, 2021 Advisory Council Meeting. Status of 2018 - 2020 Recommendation #19.
Date: Wed, Mar 3, 2021 at 3:30 PM (ET)
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Subject. PUBLIC COMMENT. RE: March 3, 2021 Advisory Council Meeting. Status of 2018 - 2020 Recommendation #19.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the public comments today. Please add the post meeting comments for future consideration regarding potential FOIA process improvements.
Status of 2018 - 2020 Recommendation #19 (and my Recommendations).
This is in furtherance to my comments in the chat for today’s meeting to provide additional information on DOD’s change to CFR 32 CFR part 286.4 making participation with OGIS optional, which serves as the impetus for my recommendations that OGIS disclose in its annual reports and/or on its public web site ADDITIONAL information relative to OGIS requests for assistance and how they were resolved, similar to Annual FOIA Report Raw Data. OGIS and DOJ OIP are aware of my past correspondence wherein DOD did not even cite OGIS dispute resolution in its FOIA and Administrative Appeals correspondence (as required by statute whether DOD participates or not). Some of those OGIS/DOJ OIP cases remain open. While DOD may elect not to participate in OGIS dispute resolution, I believe that Congressional intent for OGIS assistance is to offer a venue to resolve issues short of litigation, so public disclosure of complete information regarding the FOIA request/appeal numbers applicable to a request for dispute resolution (where available), etc., and resolution/closure of cases, including those where the Agency declined to participate, is in the Public Interest. To the extent that OGIS assigns internal case numbers to requests for assistance/dispute resolution, that additional information would be pertinent as well.
I. CHAT COMMENTS.
- Status of 2018 - 2020 Recommendation #19. Are you able to provide a very short, updated status on Recommendation #19 wrt action taken or anticipated by Congress or OGIS expanded authority? 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.
- Status of 2018 - 2020 Recommendation #19. Would it be possible for OGIS to publish the number of requests for assistance received, the number closed, the number remaining open and the number of times that an Agency refuses to participate [by Agency]? DOD for example has published a change to CFR stating that participation by DOD is voluntary. This followed many of my complaints to OGIS, DOJ OIP, the Agencies, and their leadership that many DOD entities were not eve including the option for OGIS assistance/mediation in their FOIA & Appeals letters.
- Status of 2018 - 2020 Recommendation #19. Would it be possible for OGIS to treat disclosure of request for OGIS assistance in the same way as FOIA Raw Data, wherein the Agencies identify the FOIA requests and appeals, when received and closed and the manner of closure (exemption claimed, full release, etc.)?
II. DOD CHANGE to 2 CFR part 286.4
Amend § 286.4 by revising paragraph (b) to read as follows:
FOIA Public Liaisons and the Office of Government Information Services.**
(b) Engaging in dispute resolution services provided by OGIS. These dispute resolution processes are voluntary processes. If a DoD Component agrees to participate in the dispute resolution services provided by the Office of Government Information services (OGIS), it will actively engage as a partner to the process in an attempt to resolve the dispute.
Thank you again.
With my respect,