Outbreak of Interesting FOIA Discussions Reported at CDC Atlanta HQ

A U.S. Army nurse prepares a hypodermic syringe for an injection. (NARA Identifier 6386407)

On Wednesday, March 28, OGIS’s Mediation Team Lead Carrie McGuire facilitated a FOIA forum at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. This special event brought together FOIA processors, FOIA coordinators, appeals staff and others from across the federal government to discuss FOIA issues of special interest.

For years, OGIS has promoted the importance of agency leadership showing support for the FOIA program. CDC’s Chief Operating Officer, Sherri Berger, demonstrated such support with her opening remarks, which noted CDC’s achievements in reducing the agency’s FOIA backlog. The program continued with a keynote address by Associated Press reporter Mike Stobbe, who traced FOIA’s philosophical roots to the reign of T’sai-Tsung (626 to 649), who created an imperial ombudsman office and invited those with a government grievance to bang a drum on the palace steps. Mike went on to describe how the records he received through FOIA requests provided the basis for his book, Surgeon General’s Warning: How Politics Crippled the Nation’s Doctor (University of California Press, 2014).

Kenya Ford, Senior Attorney with the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Branch, then presented information about FOIA Exemption 6 and, in particular, the differences between Exemption 6 and the Privacy Act. The forum closed with remarks from Jennie Kneedler, Senior Trial Counsel at the Federal Programs Branch in the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. Ms. Kneedler shared interesting tidbits gleaned from her experience as an attorney who has represented federal agencies in FOIA litigation, such as the importance of documenting scope and details of searches, including use of specific search terms.

Thank you to CDC’s FOIA leadership for making the FOIA forum possible – it was a great day full of interesting presentations and thoughtful questions.