Attorney and FOIA expert Scott A. Hodes discusses how requestors’ experience in obtaining results from the FOIA process can in large measure be mitigated by two key factors – FOIA Offices must have the ability to follow the law, and top agency management must allow the professionals within the agency to do this.
Via the American Society of Access Professionals, of which he is President, attorney and FOIA expert Scott A. Hodes informs us about the new guidance to all federal agencies that acknowledges the need for federal employees to attend mission-related conferences and provides some best practices for approving travel and conference expenses. This new guidance adopts many of the best practices suggested in a meetings protocol that the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) provided to OMB at their request.
Scott A. Hodes’ New Year’s commentary is both an overview and a roadmap to the FOIA process. Scott’s experience has taught him that requesters do not realize that their biggest obstacle to having their requests processed in a timely manner is not usually FOIA offices. The biggest obstacles tend to be the program offices that have equity in the records sought and the agency executives who see FOIA offices as an expense they don’t want to fund.
FOIA expert Scott A. Hodes shares his professional experience working with FOIA Analysts, and their perspective on how they make the FOIA process smoother in regard to their relationships with requesters. This however is a double edged coin – FOIA requesters can also take specific steps and make efforts to assist with the satisfactory and timely completion of a request when communicating with government FOIA personnel.
Recent reports of both the Department of Justice and others about the administrations FOIA overall program have led FOIA expert Scott A. Hodes to imagine FOIA as golf. President Obama is currently on the fairway of the ninth hole. Voters will let him know in November if he gets to play the back nine.
Scott A. Hodes addresses the responses from various groups about the proposed new Department of Justice (“DOJ”) FOIA regulations which call for DOJ components to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist. This response should not differ in wording from any other response given by the component” when applying an exclusion to the FOIA.
Scott A. Hodes explains how the spending reductions mandated by the recent Debt Ceiling bill will have tremendous impacts on citizen’s accessing government information on a number of fronts. While most in Congress will tell you they are in favor of various access laws, paying for them is another matter.
Scott A. Hodes argues that we have no real benchmark to determine executive branch success in fulfilling Presidential promises about openness and transparency. Rather he contends that the measure is not each time the administration doesn’t release something in a timely fashion to say it has failed the test.
Scott A. Hodes contends that reducing FOIA Operations any further is the wrong way to go if the objectives of increasing government transparency are to be pursued. The actual process of searching for records in response to FOIA requests and processing those requests requires human interaction – in other words, while the documents themselves can be digitized, a person will always be required to search for and process responsive records.
Scott A. Hodes comments on recent reports that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added a new layer of scrutiny for FOIA requests that came from what it considered high profile groups (basically political non-profits and media organizations). The argument is that this review did or could potentially deny these requesters material they should receive and these denials (or potential denials) were only for political purposes.