Every journalist who requests records from the federal government through the Freedom of Information Act should be familiar with its administrative appeals process. Unfortunately, for various reasons, federal agencies at times fail to adhere to FOIA’s disclosure requirements. When this occurs, journalists are not without recourse. They can appeal adverse decisions to higher authorities within an agency and often must in order to enforce their rights.
A FOIA request concerning a criminal investigation of a priest over a sexual abuse allegation was denied by prosecutors who said they would not disclose whether an investigation was going on. We filed an amicus brief joined by 25 other news organizations. We argued that a "neither confirm nor deny" response is not appropriate for state government records requests, as it was developed at the federal level to protect national security interests and has since morphed into a broad and damaging secrecy tool.