Subjects like friendly fire incidents and the mental health of soldiers are decidedly controversial, and the US Army flags such issues in a “Hot Topic” list.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Army suicide rates, Abu Ghraib, the condition of military housing, and the Fort Hood shootings are among 27 “hot topics” contained in a copy of the list released to MuckRock. That copy was last reviewed in June of 2013.
Per the Army’s 2010 FOIA procedures [PDF], “All FOIA Officers must promptly notify Senior Army leadership when they receive a FOIA request for a Hot Topic issue.” Officers must give a heads-up to officials higher in the command chain when documents about a sensitive topic are about to be released. This procedure is similar to the Department of Homeland Security’s maintenance of a “significant” FOIA list.
MuckRock founder Michael Morisy requested a copy of the Army list in December of 2011, and it was released today after a lengthy processing period.
An Army FOIA manager noted in his response letter that, “the attached ‘Hot Topics’ list is used by Army FOIA officers to notify the Public Affairs Office of the release of information related to these topics, not to restrict the release of documents.”
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