Last week we received a response from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Privacy Office to our December 2016 FOIA compliance assessment. The DHS Privacy Office is led by the agency’s Chief FOIA Officer, who has specific responsibilities agency-wide for ensuring implementation of the FOIA statute, providing oversight and supporting customer service.
Our assessment of the DHS Privacy Office was based on a review of the office’s policies and public information and interviews with the office’s leadership. The assessment also took into account our observations during assessments of FOIA programs at six DHS components: Customs and Border Protection, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, United States Coast Guard, and United States Secret Service.
We reported that the DHS Privacy Office is taking appropriate actions to meet the Chief FOIA Officer’s responsibilities under the law. We recommended that the Privacy Office adopt practices similar to those used by the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy to improve components’ compliance with FOIA and adherence to DHS FOIA policy. In particular, we recommended that the Privacy Office use a standard procedure and method for issuing guidance. We also recommended that, when warranted, issues of non-compliance should be raised to higher levels, including to the Secretary’s office; and that the Privacy Office should issue additional recommendations or corrective actions as necessary to bring components into compliance with the law and DHS policy. The Privacy Office responded that it concurs with our recommendation and provided an update on its efforts to put these practices in place.
We learned so much during our assessments of DHS FOIA offices, and greatly appreciate their participation in our agency assessment program. We are also looking forward to learning about the practices at other agencies; the next assessment on our agenda will be for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Watch this blog and follow us on Twitter for updates on our work!