Category Archives: definitions and concepts

How to Invite a FOIA Lawsuit

In the course of our work as the FOIA Ombudsman, we regularly hear from agencies and requesters about FOIA practices that work well. We also hear about practices that don’t work as well. Too often, such problems result in legal … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, About OGIS, Alternative dispute resolution, Best practices, definitions and concepts, FOIA Public Liaisons, Ombudsman, Plain Language | 5 Comments

What’s Up with Referrals? Redux

Back in May, we posted a recommendation on this blog regarding referrals. We’d recently had several OGIS cases in which agencies making referrals neither identified the name of the agencies to which they referred requests nor offered to assist requesters … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, Best practices, definitions and concepts, OGIStance | Leave a comment

That’s Not My Job… or Is It?

Since OGIS opened in 2009, we’ve noticed that some FOIA Public Liaisons (FPLs) are not entirely clear about their role. The job title, created by Executive Order 13392 in December 2005, was codified in the OPEN Government Act of 2007, … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, About OGIS, Best practices, definitions and concepts, FOIA Public Liaisons, Mediation services, Open Government | Leave a comment

Demystifying Declassification

When a requester wants access to records that are classified, he or she can choose to ask an agency to undergo Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) of those documents rather than filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. MDR requests … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, Declassification, definitions and concepts, Ombudsman, Records Management | 4 Comments

No Treat for Papering Agencies

If you’ve been a FOIA professional long enough, you’ve been papered. It makes one feel like the homeowner who discovers a toilet-papered yard the morning after Halloween – all trick, no treat. For FOIA professionals who haven’t been papered, here’s … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, Best practices, definitions and concepts, Ombudsman | 2 Comments

Tips on Getting Down to Business

FOIA’s Exemption 4 protects from disclosure commercial and financial information provided to the government by individuals and a wide range of entities – from corporations and banks to Native American tribes. The idea is to safeguard certain private business records … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, Best practices, definitions and concepts, OGIS events | Leave a comment

Twenty days … or not

When Elvis sang “Twenty Days and Twenty Nights” he didn’t have FOIA in mind. But the title refrain is sure to spark many in the FOIA community to think about the statutory requirement that agencies respond to requests within 20 … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, Best practices, definitions and concepts, Ombudsman | 4 Comments

The Intersection of FOIA Street and Privacy Act Lane

Both the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act contain provisions that grant a right of access to Federal records. FOIA applies to records of executive branch agencies on potentially any subject. The Privacy Act applies only to agencies’ records … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, About OGIS, definitions and concepts, Legislation, Privacy | Leave a comment

Avoiding Common FOIA Pitfalls

OGIS’s outreach is on a roll! This week OGIS staff presented twice to audiences of FOIA requesters as part of the National Archives’ “Know Your Records” series. This was a great opportunity to hear from those in the field – … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, About OGIS, Best practices, definitions and concepts, OGIS events, Ombudsman | Leave a comment

Paying the FOIA bills

FOIA isn’t free, we all know that. The Federal government’s estimated spending on FOIA in 2010 was approximately $416 million. Usually, an agency will process its own FOIA requests by searching for, retrieving and reviewing records. But when an agency … Continue reading

Posted in About FOIA, About OGIS, Best practices, definitions and concepts, Fees, Legislation, Ombudsman, Regulations | 3 Comments