Misconduct Investigation Materials and Results (Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General)

Matthew Hoppock filed this request with the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General of the United States of America .
Tracking #

DODOIG-2020-000468, 20-OIG-143

DODOIG-2020-000468

Multi Request Misconduct Investigation Materials and Results
Due Feb. 26, 2020
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response
Tags

Communications

From: Matthew Hoppock


To Whom It May Concern:

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

A December 19, 2019 "investigative summary" by the Office of the Inspector General outlined a recent investigation of a "Senior Official in the Executive Office for Immigration Review" finding the official "provided job applicants the interview questions in advance of their interviews." That allegation was found by the OIG to be well-founded, and the report of the investigation is said to have been provided to the EOIR. The OIG tracking number forthis investigative summary is 20-019.

Based on the investigative summary, I am requesting the following from either or both the DOJ's OIG and the EOIR:

1. The initial "information" described in the OIG Investigation Summary as having been received by OIG to initiate the investigation.
2. The investigation materials from the OIG's investigation of the original complaint, including notes, interview summaries, and correspondence related to the investigation.
3. The e-mail messages between the OIG's investigator and anyone at the EOIR related to the 20-019 investigation.
4. The report that was sent by the OIG and received by the EOIR outlining the findings related to the 20-019 investigation.
5. The investigation materials from the EOIR's investigation of the original complaint, including notes, interview summaries, and correspondence related to the investigation.
6. The results of any investigation by EOIR into these allegations.

7. In addition to the records requested above, I also request records describing the processing of this request, including records sufficient to identify search terms used and locations and custodians searched and any tracking sheets used to track the processing of this request. If you use FOIA questionnaires or certifications completed by individual custodians or components to determine whether they possess responsive materials or to describe how they conducted searches, I also request any such records prepared in connection with the processing of this request.

To clarify my request, I seek all responsive records regardless of format, medium, or physical characteristics. In conducting the search, please understand the terms “record,” “document,” and “information” in their broadest sense, to include any written, typed, recorded, graphic, printed, or audio material of any kind. We seek records of any kind, including electronic records, audiotapes, videotapes, and photographs, as well as letters, emails, facsimiles, telephone messages, voice mail messages and transcripts, notes, or minutes of any meetings, telephone conversations or discussions. My request includes any attachments to these records, including e-mail attachments. No category of material should be omitted from search, collection, and production.

Please search all records regarding agency business. You may not exclude searches of files or emails in the personal custody of your officials, such as personal email accounts. Records of official business conducted using unofficial systems or stored outside of official files is subject to the Federal Records Act and FOIA. See Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Office of Sci. & Tech. Policy, 827 F.3d 145, 149–50 (D.C. Cir. 2016); cf. Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Kerry, 844 F.3d 952, 955–56 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

It is not adequate to rely on policies and procedures that require officials to move such information to official systems within a certain period of time; I exercise and specifically preserve and assert my right to records contained in those files even if material has not yet been moved to official systems or if officials have, through negligence or willfulness, failed to meet their obligations. See Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Office of Sci. & Tech. Policy, No. 14-cv-765, slip op. at 8 (D.D.C. Dec. 12, 2016).

In addition, please note that in conducting a “reasonable search” as required by law, you must employ the most up-to-date technologies and tools available, in addition to searches by individual custodians likely to have responsive information. Recent technology may have rendered the DOJ's prior FOIA practices unreasonable. In light of the government-wide requirements to manage information electronically by the end of 2016, it is no longer reasonable to rely exclusively on custodian-driven searches. Presidential Memorandum—Managing Government Records, 76 Fed. Reg. 75,423 (Nov. 28, 2011), https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/28/presidentialmemorandum-managing-government-records; Office of Mgmt. & Budget, Exec. Office of the President, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments & Independent Agencies, “Managing Government Records Directive,” M-12-18 (Aug. 24, 2012), https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/m-12-18.pdf.

Furthermore, agencies that have adopted the National Archives and Records Agency (NARA) Capstone program, or similar policies, now maintain emails in a form that is reasonably likely to be more complete than individual custodians’ files. For example, a custodian may have deleted a responsive email from his or her email program, but DOJ's archiving tools would capture that email under Capstone. Accordingly, I insist that the USCIS use the most up-to-date technologies to search for responsive information and take steps to ensure that the most complete repositories of information are searched. I am available to work with you to craft appropriate search terms.

If it is your position that any portion of the requested records is exempt from disclosure, I request that you provide an index of those documents as required under Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1974). The index must describe each document claimed as exempt with sufficient specificity “to permit a reasoned judgment as to whether the material is actually exempt under FOIA.” Founding Church of Scientology v. Bell, 603 F.2d 945, 949 (D.C. Cir. 1979). Moreover, the index “must describe each document or portion thereof withheld, and for each withholding it must discuss the consequences of disclosing the sought-after information.” King v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 830 F.2d 210, 223–24 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Further, “the withholding agency must supply ‘a relatively detailed justification, specifically identifying the reasons why a particular exemption is relevant and correlating those claims with the particular part of a withheld document to which they apply.’” Id. at 224 (citing Mead Data Central, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 251 (D.C. Cir. 1977)).

In the event some portions of the requested records are properly exempt from disclosure, please disclose any reasonably segregable non-exempt portions of the requested records. If it is your position that a record contains non-exempt segments, but that those non-exempt segments are so dispersed throughout the document as to make segregation impossible, please state what portion of the document is non-exempt, and how the material is dispersed throughout the document. Mead Data Central, 566 F.2d at 261. Claims of nonsegregability must be made with the same degree of detail as required for claims of exemptions in a Vaughn index. If a request is denied in whole, please state specifically that it is not reasonable to segregate portions of the record for release.

You should institute a preservation hold on information responsive to this request. I intend to pursue all legal avenues to enforce my right of access under the FOIA, including prompt litigation if that becomes necessary. Accordingly, the USCIS is on notice that litigation is reasonably foreseeable. To ensure that this request is properly construed, that searches are conducted in an adequate but efficient manner, and that extraneous costs are not incurred, I welcome an opportunity to discuss this request with you before you undertake your search or incur search or duplication costs. By working together at the outset, we can decrease the likelihood of costly and time-consuming litigation in the future. If it will accelerate release of responsive records to me, please also provide responsive material on a rolling basis.

Fee Waiver Request:
In accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k), I request a waiver of fees associated with processing this request for records. The subject of this request concerns the operations of the federal government, and the disclosures will likely contribute to a better understanding of relevant government procedures by the general public in a significant way. 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(i).

Moreover, the request is entirely and fundamentally for non-commercial purposes. 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(ii). I am filing this request as a representative of a Kansas nonprofit organization, DocuFreedom Inc. The records will not be used for any commercial purpose and instead will be posted online for free using the MuckRock platform.

I request a waiver of fees because disclosure of the requested information is “in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.” 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(i); see also 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(2)(i)-(iv).

There has been extensive media coverage of and public attention on the hiring of immigration judges. See Roll Call, "DOJ changed restrictive hiring to promote restrictive immigration judges." (https://www.rollcall.com/news/congress/doj-changed-hiring-promote-restrictive-immigration-judges). I have written about and been quoted in several of these recent reports, including the Roll Call article cited above. This request goes directly to this action by the federal government.

I am also a member of the news media and have written and researched Immigration Court issues, and I request that all search and production fees be waived due to my news media status. I am quoted in a number of the articles on this topic and intend to use the documents and information received in response to this request to share with the public and to write related news articles about denaturalization.

Expedite Request:
Pursuant to 6 CFR § 5.5(e)(1) I am requesting the processing and production of records in response to this request be expedited. Given the impropriety alleged in the Investigative Summary and the likelihood the IJs who received advanced notice of their interview questions may still be sitting in such capacity and issuing deportation and removal orders, the matter is extremely urgent.

As outlined above, I am primarily engaged in disseminating information, and this matter is urgent. The loss of substantial due process rights cannot be overstated. Finally, as outlined above, this is a matter of "widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which affect public confidence." For all such reasons, the EOIR and the DOJ's OIG should expedite its request and produce the requested records at once.

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,

Matthew Hoppock

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General

This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (https://www.foiaonline.gov/foiaonline/action/public/submissionDetails?trackingNumber=DODOIG-2020-000468&type=request)

* Tracking Number: DODOIG-2020-000468
* Requester Name: Matthew Hoppock
* Date Submitted: 01/31/2020
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description:
Please reference attached letter.

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General

Dear Mr. Hoppock:

Attached please find our response to your FOIA request.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 703-604-9775.

v/r

ERIC R. POWERS
Government Information Specialist
Department of Defense Office of Inspector General Freedom of Information Act
4800 Mark Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22350-1500

This e-mail is from the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Defense, and may contain information that is "Law Enforcement Sensitive" {LES} or "For Official Use Only" {FOUO} or otherwise subject to the Privacy Act and/or legal and or other privileges that restrict release without appropriate legal authority.

From: Muckrock Staff

To Whom It May Concern:

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

A December 19, 2019 "investigative summary" by the Office of the Inspector General outlined a recent investigation of a "Senior Official in the Executive Office for Immigration Review" finding the official "provided job applicants the interview questions in advance of their interviews." That allegation was found by the OIG to be well-founded, and the report of the investigation is said to have been provided to the EOIR. The OIG tracking number forthis investigative summary is 20-019.

Based on the investigative summary, I am requesting the following from either or both the DOJ's OIG and the EOIR:

1. The initial "information" described in the OIG Investigation Summary as having been received by OIG to initiate the investigation.
2. The investigation materials from the OIG's investigation of the original complaint, including notes, interview summaries, and correspondence related to the investigation.
3. The e-mail messages between the OIG's investigator and anyone at the EOIR related to the 20-019 investigation.
4. The report that was sent by the OIG and received by the EOIR outlining the findings related to the 20-019 investigation.
5. The investigation materials from the EOIR's investigation of the original complaint, including notes, interview summaries, and correspondence related to the investigation.
6. The results of any investigation by EOIR into these allegations.

7. In addition to the records requested above, I also request records describing the processing of this request, including records sufficient to identify search terms used and locations and custodians searched and any tracking sheets used to track the processing of this request. If you use FOIA questionnaires or certifications completed by individual custodians or components to determine whether they possess responsive materials or to describe how they conducted searches, I also request any such records prepared in connection with the processing of this request.

To clarify my request, I seek all responsive records regardless of format, medium, or physical characteristics. In conducting the search, please understand the terms “record,” “document,” and “information” in their broadest sense, to include any written, typed, recorded, graphic, printed, or audio material of any kind. We seek records of any kind, including electronic records, audiotapes, videotapes, and photographs, as well as letters, emails, facsimiles, telephone messages, voice mail messages and transcripts, notes, or minutes of any meetings, telephone conversations or discussions. My request includes any attachments to these records, including e-mail attachments. No category of material should be omitted from search, collection, and production.

Please search all records regarding agency business. You may not exclude searches of files or emails in the personal custody of your officials, such as personal email accounts. Records of official business conducted using unofficial systems or stored outside of official files is subject to the Federal Records Act and FOIA. See Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Office of Sci. & Tech. Policy, 827 F.3d 145, 149–50 (D.C. Cir. 2016); cf. Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Kerry, 844 F.3d 952, 955–56 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

It is not adequate to rely on policies and procedures that require officials to move such information to official systems within a certain period of time; I exercise and specifically preserve and assert my right to records contained in those files even if material has not yet been moved to official systems or if officials have, through negligence or willfulness, failed to meet their obligations. See Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Office of Sci. & Tech. Policy, No. 14-cv-765, slip op. at 8 (D.D.C. Dec. 12, 2016).

In addition, please note that in conducting a “reasonable search” as required by law, you must employ the most up-to-date technologies and tools available, in addition to searches by individual custodians likely to have responsive information. Recent technology may have rendered the DOJ's prior FOIA practices unreasonable. In light of the government-wide requirements to manage information electronically by the end of 2016, it is no longer reasonable to rely exclusively on custodian-driven searches. Presidential Memorandum—Managing Government Records, 76 Fed. Reg. 75,423 (Nov. 28, 2011), https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/28/presidentialmemorandum-managing-government-records; Office of Mgmt. & Budget, Exec. Office of the President, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments & Independent Agencies, “Managing Government Records Directive,” M-12-18 (Aug. 24, 2012), https://www.archives.gov/files/records-mgmt/m-12-18.pdf.

Furthermore, agencies that have adopted the National Archives and Records Agency (NARA) Capstone program, or similar policies, now maintain emails in a form that is reasonably likely to be more complete than individual custodians’ files. For example, a custodian may have deleted a responsive email from his or her email program, but DOJ's archiving tools would capture that email under Capstone. Accordingly, I insist that the USCIS use the most up-to-date technologies to search for responsive information and take steps to ensure that the most complete repositories of information are searched. I am available to work with you to craft appropriate search terms.

If it is your position that any portion of the requested records is exempt from disclosure, I request that you provide an index of those documents as required under Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1974). The index must describe each document claimed as exempt with sufficient specificity “to permit a reasoned judgment as to whether the material is actually exempt under FOIA.” Founding Church of Scientology v. Bell, 603 F.2d 945, 949 (D.C. Cir. 1979). Moreover, the index “must describe each document or portion thereof withheld, and for each withholding it must discuss the consequences of disclosing the sought-after information.” King v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 830 F.2d 210, 223–24 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Further, “the withholding agency must supply ‘a relatively detailed justification, specifically identifying the reasons why a particular exemption is relevant and correlating those claims with the particular part of a withheld document to which they apply.’” Id. at 224 (citing Mead Data Central, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 251 (D.C. Cir. 1977)).

In the event some portions of the requested records are properly exempt from disclosure, please disclose any reasonably segregable non-exempt portions of the requested records. If it is your position that a record contains non-exempt segments, but that those non-exempt segments are so dispersed throughout the document as to make segregation impossible, please state what portion of the document is non-exempt, and how the material is dispersed throughout the document. Mead Data Central, 566 F.2d at 261. Claims of nonsegregability must be made with the same degree of detail as required for claims of exemptions in a Vaughn index. If a request is denied in whole, please state specifically that it is not reasonable to segregate portions of the record for release.

You should institute a preservation hold on information responsive to this request. I intend to pursue all legal avenues to enforce my right of access under the FOIA, including prompt litigation if that becomes necessary. Accordingly, the USCIS is on notice that litigation is reasonably foreseeable. To ensure that this request is properly construed, that searches are conducted in an adequate but efficient manner, and that extraneous costs are not incurred, I welcome an opportunity to discuss this request with you before you undertake your search or incur search or duplication costs. By working together at the outset, we can decrease the likelihood of costly and time-consuming litigation in the future. If it will accelerate release of responsive records to me, please also provide responsive material on a rolling basis.

Fee Waiver Request:
In accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A)(iii) and 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k), I request a waiver of fees associated with processing this request for records. The subject of this request concerns the operations of the federal government, and the disclosures will likely contribute to a better understanding of relevant government procedures by the general public in a significant way. 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(i).

Moreover, the request is entirely and fundamentally for non-commercial purposes. 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(ii). I am filing this request as a representative of a Kansas nonprofit organization, DocuFreedom Inc. The records will not be used for any commercial purpose and instead will be posted online for free using the MuckRock platform.

I request a waiver of fees because disclosure of the requested information is “in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.” 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(1)(i); see also 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(k)(2)(i)-(iv).

There has been extensive media coverage of and public attention on the hiring of immigration judges. See Roll Call, "DOJ changed restrictive hiring to promote restrictive immigration judges." (https://www.rollcall.com/news/congress/doj-changed-hiring-promote-restrictive-immigration-judges). I have written about and been quoted in several of these recent reports, including the Roll Call article cited above. This request goes directly to this action by the federal government.

I am also a member of the news media and have written and researched Immigration Court issues, and I request that all search and production fees be waived due to my news media status. I am quoted in a number of the articles on this topic and intend to use the documents and information received in response to this request to share with the public and to write related news articles about denaturalization.

Expedite Request:
Pursuant to 6 CFR § 5.5(e)(1) I am requesting the processing and production of records in response to this request be expedited. Given the impropriety alleged in the Investigative Summary and the likelihood the IJs who received advanced notice of their interview questions may still be sitting in such capacity and issuing deportation and removal orders, the matter is extremely urgent.

As outlined above, I am primarily engaged in disseminating information, and this matter is urgent. The loss of substantial due process rights cannot be overstated. Finally, as outlined above, this is a matter of "widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which affect public confidence." For all such reasons, the EOIR and the DOJ's OIG should expedite its request and produce the requested records at once.

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,

Matthew Hoppock

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General

Hello:

Attached is the OIG’s acknowledgment of your FOIA request.

Thank you.

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General

Hello:

Attached is the OIG’s interim response to your FOIA request.

Thanks.

From: Matthew Hoppock

Good morning, I am writing again to check the status of the remaining items on this request. Although we received an interim response with a heavily redacted copy of the report, I am anticipating still receiving the following:

1. The initial "information" described in the OIG Investigation Summary as having been received by OIG to initiate the investigation.
2. The investigation materials from the OIG's investigation of the original complaint, including notes, interview summaries, and correspondence related to the investigation.
3. The e-mail messages between the OIG's investigator and anyone at the EOIR related to the 20-019 investigation.
4. An unredacted copy of the report that was sent by the OIG and received by the EOIR outlining the findings related to the 20-019 investigation.

Can you please let me know when we might receive the rest of the responsive records? If you need anything else from me, including assistance with clarifying any of the search terms, please let me know. Thank you.

Matthew Hoppock

From: Matthew Hoppock

Good morning, I am writing again to check the status of the remaining items on this request. Although we received an interim response with a heavily redacted copy of the report, I am anticipating still receiving the following:

1. The initial "information" described in the OIG Investigation Summary as having been received by OIG to initiate the investigation.
2. The investigation materials from the OIG's investigation of the original complaint, including notes, interview summaries, and correspondence related to the investigation.
3. The e-mail messages between the OIG's investigator and anyone at the EOIR related to the 20-019 investigation.
4. An unredacted copy of the report that was sent by the OIG and received by the EOIR outlining the findings related to the 20-019 investigation.

Can you please let me know when we might receive the rest of the responsive records? If you need anything else from me, including assistance with clarifying any of the search terms, please let me know. Thank you.

Matthew Hoppock

From: Matthew Hoppock

Good morning, I am writing again to check the status of the remaining items on this request #DODOIG-2020-000468, 20-OIG-143. Although we received an interim response with a heavily redacted copy of the report, I am anticipating still receiving the following:

1. The initial "information" described in the OIG Investigation Summary as having been received by OIG to initiate the investigation.
2. The investigation materials from the OIG's investigation of the original complaint, including notes, interview summaries, and correspondence related to the investigation.
3. The e-mail messages between the OIG's investigator and anyone at the EOIR related to the 20-019 investigation.
4. An unredacted copy of the report that was sent by the OIG and received by the EOIR outlining the findings related to the 20-019 investigation.

Can you please let me know when we might receive the rest of the responsive records? If you need anything else from me, including assistance with clarifying any of the search terms, please let me know. Thank you.

Matthew Hoppock

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