MuckRock emails (Broadcasting Board of Governors)

Emma Best filed this request with the Broadcasting Board of Governors of the United States of America.
Tracking #

18-028

FOIA18-028

Multi Request MuckRock emails
Est. Completion None
Status
Fix Required

Communications

From: Emma Best


To Whom It May Concern:

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

Copies of all emails containing the terms "MuckRock", "Muck Rock" or "MuckRock.com", excluding emails sent to or from a MuckRock.com email address. Please include the complete email exchange for each email, including any emails that are being replied to as well as any subsequent replies.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities. I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through non-profits such as the Internet Archive and MuckRock, disseminating them to a large audience. While my research is not limited to this, a great deal of it, including this, focuses on the activities and attitudes of the government itself. As such, it is not necessary for me to demonstrate the relevance of this particular subject in advance.

Additionally, case law states that “proof of the ability to disseminate the released information to a broad cross- section of the public is not required.” Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep’t of Justice, 365 F.3d 1108, 1126 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see Carney v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 19 F.3d 807, 814-15 (2d Cir. 1994). Further, courts have held that "qualified because it also had “firm” plans to “publish a number of . . . ‘document sets’” concerning United States foreign and national security policy." Under this criteria, as well, I qualify as a member of the news media.

Additionally, courts have held that the news media status "focuses on the nature of the requester, not its request. The provision requires that the request be “made by” a representative of the news media. Id. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii)(II). A newspaper reporter, for example, is a representative of the news media regardless of how much interest there is in the story for which he or she is requesting information." As such, the details of the request itself are moot for the purposes of determining the appropriate fee category. As my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available, I request that fees be waived.

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,

Emma Best

From: Broadcasting Board of Governors

Dear Ms. Best,

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) FOIA office received a monthly reminder from MuckRock News regarding your FOIA request (FOIA18-028). Our records show we responded and closed this request on 6/14/18, and a copy of the letter sent to you is attached. Please contact MuckRock News to inform them that you have received a response from BBG and that your request is closed so they can terminate the monthly reminders for this request.

Respectfully,

BBG FOIA Office

  • FOIA18-028 - Denial Letter (burdensome search)(06132018)(esigned)

From: Emma Best

I am appealing the determination that the request is unreasonably burdensome, as courts have explicitly ruled otherwise (see attached).

From: Broadcasting Board of Governors

A letter stating that the request appeal has been succesful.

From: Broadcasting Board of Governors

Ms. Best:

Enclosed please find a letter from Matthew Walsh, Chair of the Access Appeal Committee at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, regarding the responds to your FOIA18-028 Appeal.

Sincerely,

Gwen Bethany
U.S. Agency for Global Media

  • (2018-11-05) Letter from M. Walsh to E. Best re FOIA18-028 Appeal Request

From: Broadcasting Board of Governors

MuckRock (Ms. Best):

Due to the lapse of appropriations for the U.S. government, we are currently unavailable to respond to your FOIA request at this time. We will, however, respond to all FOIA inquiries as soon as the government re-opens.

Respectfully,

The FOIA Office
U.S. Agency for Global Media/BBG

From: Broadcasting Board of Governors

Hi Ms. Best-

My name is Dana Sade and I am the new Assistant Chief Counsel for FOIA at USAGM.

I have been reviewing all of the cases and appeals pending when I assumed this position a few months ago and your appeal caught my attention.

USAGM conducted the search you requested in 2018. I just reviewed the results of the search and would like to discuss them with you via telephone.

With limited exception (discussed below), our search resulted solely in the identification of broadly published, mass emails received by the agency from such entities as Global Investigative Journalism Network, American Press Institute, Nieman Lab, the Marshall Project, OpenGov Hub, Morning Media, Poynter, Muck Rock, the Daily Beast, the Cipher Brief, EWA, JW Newslink and Google Alerts for Radio Liberty/Cuba.

In addition, our search identified: a) multiple copies of the same email about a Satanic Temple filing a discrimination law suit in Arizona from an entity called Jacobson Strategy; b) an email shared by several employees containing a link to a Muck Rock Article about Josephine Baker and nothing else; c) slides for USAGM training created and used internally referencing MuckRock.com as a good source of FOIA information for journalists (but containing no further information or discussion relating to the search terms); and d) routine emails to and from counsel relating to the processing of this and prior Much Rock FOIA requests.

While I do not know with specificity what information you seek, it is difficult to imagine that any of these documents would be of use to you or your audience.

For this reason, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you the substance of my review and possible withdrawal of your appeal.

Thanks for letting me know when you are available to talk.
Best,

Dana Sade
Assistant Chief Counsel for FOIA
202.203.4548

From: Broadcasting Board of Governors

Ms. Best-

I am the new Assistant General Counsel for FOIA at USAGM. I just reviewed the procedural history of your request, as well as the search that was conducted on remand after your successful appeal in or about November 2018.

First, please accept my apology on behalf of the agency for the delay in responding to you. The search on remand took place just prior to the government shutdown. After the shutdown, the office was unable to conduct the review due to staffing issues. I came on board thereafter and have been addressing the FOIA backlog for some time.

Having just reviewed all of the records identified on remand, I am reaching out to you in hope of setting up a call to discuss next steps. The only responsive records identified by the agency that were generated by USAGM are several Office of the General Counsel emails relating solely to the processing of this and one other FOIA submitted to USAGM via the MuckRock FOIA website (the other FOIA involved a government contract). Without exception, all of the other records identified in our search on remand are widely published documents received by USAGM employees from various list-serves, including Neiman Lab, SSC News, Much Rack Alert, Need to Know, GIJN, ICIG News Briefing, Document Cloud, Google Alert and Ground Sourced. In addition, we identified a PowerPoint from a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) conference that was circulated among some VOA staff. The PowerPoint mentions MuckRock on one page discussing FOIA resources.

In short, the responsive records identified on remand reveal little about the operations or activities of USAGM, nor do they contain any substantive information about MuckRock. At the same time, releasing these records will require our staff to spend a significant amount of time redacting names and email addresses of a multitude of recipients under FOIA Exemption b(6) on privacy grounds.

For this reason, and given the generic, widely circulated nature of the records identified in our search, I am hoping you will agree to withdraw the FOIA request at this time.

Please call me at your convenience. I can be reached at 202-499-0740.

Sincerely,

Dana Sade
Assistant General Counsel

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