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.
The New York Times Company and the American Civil Liberties Union sought records under the federal Freedom of Information Act detailing the U.S. government’s policies for when it can conduct drone strikes and when it can kill a U.S. citizen. In particular, the Times and the ACLU sought memos prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice to the President. After the government refused to release the records, the Times and the ACLU sued.