Game of Thrones FOIA Requesters Face “Stark” Reality

Hobnobbing with movie stars and seeing advance copies of popular shows are some of the perks of serving as the President. (NARA Identifier 199325)

Hobnobbing with movie stars and seeing advance copies of popular shows are some of the perks of serving as the President. (NARA Identifier 199325)

It looks like FOIA requesters won’t be able to use their favorite access law to find out what really happened to Jon Snow.

Last week the #FOIA Twittersphere was buzzing with news that an enterprising reporter had filed an unexpected Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request; she requested the advanced copies (or “screeners”) of the next season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” that the popular show’s creators provided to President Obama.  But what are the chances that this request will result in release?

First, it is important to remember that FOIA does not apply to most Presidential records—while you can make a request for records of five offices in the Executive Office of the President (Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of the National Drug Control Policy, Council on Environmental Quality, and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative), courts have ruled that  FOIA does not apply to the “President’s immediate personal staff or units in the Executive Office whose sole function is to advise and assist the President.”

The White House Executive Residence staff is the most likely office to have the Game of Thrones screeners, and it is among those offices not subject to FOIA; for this reason, the request is likely to be denied. At least two homebrewers faced the same obstacle recently when they filed FOIA requests for the White House’s beer recipe. In the case of the beer recipe, while the FOIA requests were unsuccessful, the White House opted to proactively release the recipe on its blog.  It seems unlikely that the Administration would take a similar step with its advance copy of the upcoming season of Game of Thrones.

Are you interested in learning more about FOIA to distract yourself until we can all rejoin the action in Westeros? Be sure to check out our Toolbox, which includes lots of useful resources for FOIA requesters and agency FOIA professionals alike.

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