With the holidays upon us, requesters everywhere are making a list of the documents they hope to find in their stocking this year. But not everyone is in the mood for transparency cheer, with allegations that some top officials are pulling a Grinch when it comes to handing out the documents the public is owed.
EPA and Interior keep watchful eye on FOIA
In an unusual move, the FOIA offices of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior have been directed to kick any requests about reviews of national monuments and some other sensitive topics upstairs for closer scrutiny, according to the Washington Post:
The Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department are at ground zero in this growing feud. At both departments and elsewhere in the administration, news outlets and nonprofit organizations have uncovered meeting schedules and travel manifests through FOIA requests that illustrate the ties top officials have forged with players in industries they are tasked with regulating. FOIA requests have also shed light on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s taxpayer-funded travel habits.
The result is that some high-level officials at both EPA and Interior are keeping closer tabs on these FOIA requests, while at least at the EPA — according to those who have filed such requests — bureaus drag their feet in responding.
At Interior, Zinke’s office has taken direct control of the various FOIA requests that have piled up at the various agencies responsible for his review of national monuments created during the past three presidential administrations.
Concern about political meddling in the FOIA process is as old as, well, FOIA itself, but it’s certainly an area to keep a close eye on. Read more at the Washington Post.
Last minute gift ideas
Looking for some last-minute holiday shopping ideas? Jason Leopold at BuzzFeed News got a copy of the gift list foreign officials gave intelligence officials. Generally speaking, government officials are supposed to decline gifts of this nature, but an exception is made if “non-acceptance would have caused embarrassment to donor & U.S. Government.”
Gifts include cigarette boxes, rugs, watches, some very nice leather jackets and more. But even though the officials accepted the items, they still hand them over to the U.S Treasury to avoid any untoward influence.
NEW: #FOIA docs I obtained from ODNI reveal list of gifts intelligence officials have received from foreign governments over the past decade. "Non acceptance would have caused embarrassment to donor & US government." https://t.co/pr1zFogSNz pic.twitter.com/gVlrB1W1w8— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) December 12, 2017
And if you’re still not finding anything that’s a good fit, check out some FOIA-themed gift ideas at the official MuckRock Swag Store.
Help double check the naughty and nice list
If you have a story of a FOIA or public records officer doing good work, make sure to give them a shoutout here … we’re only collecting submissions for a few more days!
And if there’s any agency that deserves coal, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is gearing up for its annual Foilies, which highlight agencies that have blocked or obstructed access.