Bruce Moskowitz Communications

Jasper Craven filed this request with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of the United States of America.
Tracking #

18-10218-F

Est. Completion None
Status
Partially Completed

Communications

From: Jasper Craven


To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

All emails between Doctor Bruce Moskowitz (an informal VA adviser reported on here: https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/16/donald-trump-palm-beach-doctor/) and VA staffers Robert Wilkie, Peter O'Rourke, Casin Spero, Darin Selnick between January 1, 2018 and present day. Search terms should include: "meeting," "community care", "neuro" , and "choice."

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Jasper Craven

From: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Dear Mr. Craven,

This email acknowledges receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) dated July 15, 2018, in which you requested

* All emails between Doctor Bruce Moskowitz (an informal VA adviser reported on here: https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/16/donald-trump-palm-beach-doctor/) and VA staffers Robert Wilkie, Peter O'Rourke, Casin Spero, Darin Selnick between January 1, 2018 and present day. Search terms should include: "meeting," "community care", "neuro", and "choice."
The FOIA Service received your request on July 16, 2018, and assigned it FOIA tracking numbers 18-10218-F and 18-10231-F. Please refer to these numbers when communicating with the VA about this request.
The records you requested are maintained at the Office of the Executive Secretary US Department of Veterans Affairs (OSVA) 18-10218-F and Office of Assistant Secretary for Public & Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA) 18-10231-F. Your request has been redirected to these offices at the following addresses:

Department of Veterans Affairs
OSVA, (002B) VACO
FOIA Officer: Richard Ha
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Email: osvafoia@va.gov<mailto:osvafoia@va.gov>
Phone: (202) 461-4809
Facsimile: (202) 273-4880

Questions regarding the status of your request should be directed to Mr. Ha.

Department of Veterans Affairs
OPIA, (002) VACO
FOIA Officer: Anita Major
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Phone: (202) 461-7430
Facsimile: (202) 495-5228

Questions regarding the status of your request should be directed to Ms. Major.

We appreciate your interest in the VA.

Sincerely,

Jacqueline (Jackie) Short
VACO FOIA Service (005R1C)
Office of Privacy Information and Identity Protection (PIIP)
Quality, Privacy, and Risk (QPR)
Office of Information and Technology (OI&T)
Email: vacofoiase@va.gov<mailto:vacofoiase@va.gov>
Office: (202) 632-7426
Fax: (202) 632-7581
FOIA Service Hotline: 1-877-750-3642

Please take a moment and let us know how we did by completing a quick evaluation: Got a minute? Rate Our Service!<https://vaww.vashare.oit.va.gov/sites/QPR/Lists/QPR%20Customer%20Satisifaction%20Evaluation/Item/newifs.aspx>

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From: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

September 14, 2018 In Reply Refer To: 001B

FOIA Request: 18-10218-F

Jasper Craven
MuckRock News
DEPT MR 58306
411A Highland Ave
Somerville, MA 02144-2516
requests@muckrock.com<mailto:requests@muckrock.com>; jclarkcraven@gmail.com<mailto:jclarkcraven@gmail.com>

Dear Mr. Craven:

This is the Partial Initial Agency Decision (IAD) to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (OSVA) dated and received July 15, 2018, and assigned FOIA tracking number 18-10218-F. You requested: "All emails between Doctor Bruce Moskowitz (an informal VA adviser reported on here: https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/16/donald-trump-palm-beach-doctor/) and VA staffers Robert Wilkie, Peter O'Rourke, Casin Spero, Darin Selnick between January 1, 2018 and present day."

Partial IAD and September 6, 2018 Reasonable Search

On September 6, 2018, our search cut-off date, we searched through VA Secretary Robert Wilkie's emails from April 1, 2018 (the date he became VA Acting Secretary) to June 5, 2018. VA will conduct a follow-up search of Secretary Wilkie's emails from June 6, 2018, to September 6, 2018.

We searched through former VA Acting Secretary Peter O'Rourke's emails from February 15, 2018 (the date he became VA Acting Chief of Staff), to May 3, 2018. VA will conduct a follow-up search of former VA Acting Secretary Peter O'Rourke's emails from May 4, 2018, to August 21, 2018. VA will conduct follow-up searches of the email boxes of Mr. Selnick and Mr. Spero.

OSVA searched for any emails to or from Dr. Moskowitz. Our search thus far yielded fifty-six (56) pages. After reviewing the fifty-six (56) pages, OSVA redacts some information with FOIA Exemptions 5 and 6. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5) exempts from disclosure "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency." The government is entitled to redact confidential government information given "the sensitivity of the commercial secrets involved, and the harm that would be inflicted upon the Government by premature disclosure." Federal Open Market Committee v. Merrill, 443 U.S. 340, 363 (1979). Redacted information includes VA electronic mail server code usernames. The release of this information would expose the VA, its employees, and its contractors to potential hacking and information technology security liabilities and risks.

5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) exempts from required disclosure "personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." FOIA Exemption 6 permits VA to withhold a document or information within a document if disclosure of the information, either by itself or in conjunction with other information available to either the public or the FOIA requester, would result in an unwarranted invasion of an individual's personal privacy without contributing significantly to the public's understanding of the activities of the federal government. Specifically, the information being withheld, as indicated on the enclosed documents, under FOIA Exemption 6, consists of names, identities, email addresses, VA usernames, phone numbers, cellular numbers, and facsimile numbers federal employees and private citizens; we however release the names and VA email addresses of VA Senior Executives. Federal civilian employees and private citizens retain a significant privacy interest under certain circumstances, such as in instances where the release of their information could represent a threat to their well-being, harassment, or their ability to function within their sphere of employment. The federal civilian employees and private citizens whose information is at issue have a substantial privacy interest in their personal information. In weighing the private versus the public interest, except names and VA email addresses of VA Senior Executives, we find that there is no public interest in knowing the names, identities, email addresses, VA usernames, phone numbers, cellular numbers, and facsimile numbers of federal civilian employees and private citizens. The coverage of FOIA Exemption 6 is absolute unless the FOIA requester can demonstrate a countervailing public interest in the requested information by demonstrating that the individual is in a position to provide the requested information to members of the general public and that the information requested contributes significantly to the public's understanding of the activities of the Federal government. Additionally, the requester must demonstrate how the public's need to understand the information significantly outweighs the privacy interest of the person to whom the information pertains. Upon consideration of the records, I have not been able to identify a countervailing public interest of sufficient magnitude to outweigh the privacy interest of the individuals whose names are redacted. The protected information has been redacted and (b)(6) inserted. "Withholding a telephone number or e-mail address, alone, is not sufficient to protect that [privacy] interest; alternate means of contacting and harassing these employees would be readily discoverable on the Internet if this court ordered their names disclosed." Long v. Immigration & Customs Enf't, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160719 (D.C. Cir. 2017).

FOIA Mediation
As part of the 2007 FOIA amendments, the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) was created to offer mediation services to resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and Federal agencies as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation. Using OGIS services does not affect your right to pursue litigation. Under the provisions of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, the following contact information is provided to assist FOIA requesters in resolving disputes:

VA Central Office FOIA Public Liaison:
Name: John Buck
Email Address: vacofoiaservice@va.gov<mailto:vacofoiaservice@va.gov>

Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)
Email Address: ogis@nara.gov<mailto:ogis@nara.gov>
Fax: 202-741-5769
Mailing address:
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001

FOIA Appeal
This concludes OSVA's partial IAD response to request 18-10218-F. Please be advised that should you desire to do so, you may appeal the determination made in this response to:

Office of General Counsel (024)
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

If you should choose to file an appeal, please include a copy of this letter with your written appeal and clearly indicate the basis for your disagreement with the determination set forth in this response. Please be advised that in accordance with VA's implementing FOIA regulations at 38 C.F.R. § 1.559, your appeal must be postmarked no later than ninety (90) days of the date of this letter.

Sincerely,

Richard Ha, JD, CIPP/G

OSVA FOIA Officer

Attachments

* Fifty-six (56) pages redacted emails

Richard Ha, JD, CIPP/G
OSVA FOIA/Privacy Officer
Office of the Executive Secretary
Office of the Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (OSVA)
202-632-5286 o
202-309-3072 c
Richard.ha1@va.gov<mailto:Richard.ha1@va.gov>
Telework Weds
CWS 2nd Mon

These messages and attachments are For Official Use Only, not to be shared outside intended parties, and may be exempt from disclosure pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(3) prohibiting the release of information that another statute prohibits; 41 U.S.C. § 4702(b) prohibiting the release of unincorporated proposals; 41 U.S.C. § 423(a) prohibiting the release of bid or proposal information or evaluations before award; 26 U.S.C. § 6103 prohibiting the release of tax identification numbers; 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4) prohibiting the release of confidential commercial information; 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5) under the deliberative process, attorney-client, and work product privileges; and 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) protecting personally identifiable information. If you received these messages and attachments in error, you must inform the FOIA Officer and destroy them immediately. The VA reserves its discovery rights including, but not limited to, objections, privileges, motions, etc.

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