FOIA requesters

Chief FOIA Officers Council meets for the first time

Luis Ferre Sadurni | Freedom of Information | News | July 25, 2016
News
July 25, 2016

The Chief FOIA Officers Council, charged with addressing the most important difficulties in administering FOIA across government, met for the first time July 22 to begin the process of implementing a “release to one is a release to all” standard for federal records.

The policy would make agencies release FOIA-processed records to one requester and simultaneously to the general public by posting them online.

Concerns about the policy from both journalists and FOIA officers were addressed at the meeting. Many reporters worry that releasing requested documents to the public would compromise their reporting by allowing others to steal their “scoop.” Agency FOIA officers were troubled by the burden of ensuring records are accessible to all and in compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Execution records appeal leads to ruling limiting Virginia FOIA disclosures

Soo Rin Kim | Freedom of Information | News | October 7, 2015
News
October 7, 2015

A recent ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court in a death penalty records case could jeopardize many more open records requests under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, after the court held that a government agency can withhold an entire document if any portion is exempt and would have to be redacted.

The case started with a victory in Fairfax Circuit Court for Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax), who had requested information from the Department of Corrections about the state's methods for executions and the facilities where they are conducted. The department appealed, and the state Supreme Court ruled that state law does not require officials to redact documents. If information in a document is exempt from disclosure, the court said, the entire document can be withheld.

Federal agencies announce limited trial of "release for one, release to all" FOIA policy

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | News | July 9, 2015
News
July 9, 2015

With little public fanfare, seven federal agencies have announced a controversial trial program of publishing documents responsive to most Freedom of Information Act requests online.

Under the program, known as a “Release-to-One is Release-to-All” policy, any member of the public will presumably have access to the result of almost any FOIA request.

Few other details were released in a brief announcement posted on several agency websites. It remains to be seen whether there will be a delay between sending responsive documents to the requester and posting them for the general public, or whether requesters will simply be sent a link to a public website that already hosts the documents.

FOIA trial offers rare look into how FBI searches records, responds to requests

Jacob Donnelly | Freedom of Information | News | June 18, 2015
News
June 18, 2015

Evidence from an ongoing Freedom of Information Act trial has shed light on how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handles FOIA requests from the public.

The case, Trentadue v. FBI, was filed by Jesse Trentadue in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah after the FBI failed to turn over videotapes of the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995.

In the Reporters Committee's experience, it is rare for FOIA cases to go to trial - cases are usually settled or disposed of though pre-trial motions.

Reporters Committee seeks review of denied FOIA request for D.C. police body camera video

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | April 6, 2015
Commentary
April 6, 2015

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has submitted an administrative appeal to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser urging her to overturn the Metropolitan Police Department’s decision to withhold footage from police body-worn cameras requested by the Reporters Committee under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act.

In discussing the department’s body camera program last week during her State of the District address, Mayor Bowser said that “accountability is embedded, and will be embedded in everything this administration does.” Mayor Bowser also stated that the use of body cameras will be expanded to cover all patrol officers over the coming months.

Reporters Committee attorneys represent Alan Morrison in suit seeking justification for CIA rendition program

Freedom of Information | Commentary | March 24, 2015
Commentary
March 24, 2015

Adam Marshall and Hannah Bloch-Wehba

Alan Morrison, a dean and constitutional law professor at the George Washington University Law School, has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency for access to records detailing the legal justification for rendition and extraordinary rendition programs conducted by the United States. Attorneys at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are representing Morrison pro bono.

For many years, the United States has sought to bring criminal suspects to the United States for prosecution without using extradition procedures, a practice referred to as rendition. After September 11, 2001, the CIA began a program of so-called “extraordinary rendition.” Under that program, detainees would be transferred into the custody of third-party nations, or to secretly-operated prisons known as “black sites,” for detention and interrogation.

Reporters Committee argues for broad definition of 'news media' in FOIA fees case

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | News | January 14, 2015
News
January 14, 2015

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments Tuesday in Cause of Action v. FTC, a case that challenges whether the Federal Trade Commission properly denied fee waiver requests made by the non-profit group Cause of Action. The group asserted it was entitled to a fee waiver both because its requests were in the public interest and they are a representative of the news media. Katie Townsend, Litigation Director at the Reporters Committee, argued before the court as amicus curiae in support of the Cause of Action, focusing on the changing nature of disseminating information to the public in the digital age.

Requesters complain of consultant's high FOIA search fees for Ferguson records

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | October 9, 2014
Commentary
October 9, 2014

Multiple news media organizations have filed formal complaints with the Missouri Attorney General over the high fees charged by the city of Ferguson in response to public records requests. The complaints come after reports of journalists being asked to pay up to $2,000 in advance to search through and copy emails and text messages. Thus far, complaints have been filed by the Associated Press, CNN, St. Louis Public Radio, and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

Senators introduce bipartisan FOIA amendment

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Freedom of Information | News | June 25, 2014
News
June 25, 2014

Two senators crossed party lines in support of legislation that would strengthen the current Freedom of Information Act and diminish agencies’ excuses for withholding documents.

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced the bill June 24 after the Senate Judiciary Committee held a meeting in March to discuss changes to the FOIA.

“The Freedom of Information Act is one of our nation’s most important laws, established to give Americans greater access to their government and to hold government accountable,” Leahy said in a press release.

Washington State Supreme Court grants ABC affiliate access to dashcam videos

Bradleigh Chance | Freedom of Information | News | June 13, 2014
News
June 13, 2014

After a drawn out legal battle over access to police car dashcam videos between TV station KOMO and the Seattle Police Department, the local news source received a favorable opinion from the Washington State Supreme Court. The court concluded the police should have released videos in response to two public records requests made by KOMO reporter Tracy Vedder.

KOMO sued for access when the Department of Justice was investigating the Seattle Police Department for use of excessive force.