FOIA Court Challenges Up 27% in FY 2011

The FOIA Project has just announced that FOIA court challenges were up 27% over last year.

The release states:

“The recently completed 2011 fiscal year saw 378 court challenges to the withholding of information by the federal government, up 27% from the previous fiscal year, according to district court information compiled as part of the FOIA Project.”

The FOIA Project contains information on 949 cases either filed or closed since October 2009.  The site has also has new features and charts, including:

“Closed cases: All FOIA cases filed in district courts and closed since FY 2010 (October 1, 2009) are now listed on the site….”
“New charts: Two new graphics have been added to the website: a chart showing counts for closed cases and a map detailing the geographical distribution of closed cases.”
“New searches: You can now search the court documents database by the date in which a FOIA case was closed. In addition, you can also now search by the name of the judge who presided over the case.”

FOIA Hearing

“The secrecy reflex at some agencies remains firmly in place,” said Tom Curley.

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing (audio) on, “Advancing Freedom of Information in the New Era of Responsibility.”

The witness list included (with names linked to statements):  The Honorable Thomas J. Perrelli (Associate Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice),  Miriam Nisbet (Director,  Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration), Tom Curley (President and CEO, The Associated Press, Representing the Sunshine in Government Initiative), and  Meredith Fuchs (General Counsel, The National Security Archive ).

For coverage of this hearing, see stories in the AP, Washington Post, and ProPublica.

From the AP story:

“[Senators] Leahy and Cornyn have introduced legislation [S.612] that would require any such exemptions included in legislation to be clearly stated, rather than buried. The legislation has passed the Senate twice but has not yet been considered by the House.”

Stories from the trenches: Getting by with a little help from our friends

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.  Or, more accurately, whose contact information you can find.

This morning we received a request to track down some government reports that were the subject of a FOIA request a few years ago.  Initial web browsing was unsuccessful, so I took a decidedly low-tech approach (at least by today’s standards) and picked up the phone.  I called both the organization that made the initial request and the attorney who represented them in a subsequent lawsuit.  Within twenty minutes my call had been returned and the reports were sent poste haste, via e-mail.

This is not the first time that an attorney or organization has jumped in to help out by sending hard to find items our way.  One of our favorite tips to give students in our Advanced Legal Research class is to reach out to individuals when searching in their favorite spots does not pan out.  Today it payed to practice what I preach.

Below is a link for the requested items.  Included are memorandums and reports from the Department of Defense and their Threat and Local Observation Notice reporting service relating to surveillance of college campus activities surrounding the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of the United States military.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell FOIA Documents