FBI Changes FOIA Policy In Response To Investigative Reporter Jason Leopold’s FOIA Lawsuit

Over at Truthout, investigative reporter Jason Leopold reports on a victory he and the public interest law firm, National Security Counselors, scored in their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the FBI and two other government agencies that led the bureau to change its policy and practice:

Nearly four years after changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) went into effect, the FBI, in response to a lawsuitin which I am a co-plaintiff, said the bureau would now begin to abide by a little-known provision in the law that requires all government agencies, when asked, to provide estimated dates of completion to records requesters.

Last February, the Arlington, Virginia-based public interest law firm National Security Counselors, and I sued the FBI and other government agencies for refusing to provide us with estimated dates of completion on our FOIA requests.

In a declaration filed June 21 with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, David Hardy, the head of the FBI’s FOIA office, known as the Records Information and Dissemination Section or RIDS, said, “as part of the review of the history of its actions in response to plaintiffs’ requests for estimated dates of completion, I issued a policy memorandum to all RIDS personnel dated June 18, 2012, reiterating the statutory obligations to provide FOIA requesters with estimated dates of completion when prompted for this information.”

The FBI’s FOIA office “has begun to provide estimated dates of completion upon request and will continue this practice so long as the FOIA requires such,” Hardy admitted. (Emphasis added.)

Additionally, Debra Steidel Wall, the deputy archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and John Hackett, the chief of the Information and Data Management Group in the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) who oversees the agency’s FOIA process, defendants in my lawsuit, also issued new policy memos to their FOIA staffers last month in response to the litigation, reminding them of their obligation under FOIA to provide records requesters with estimated dates of completion as the law began requiring four years earlier.

Kel McClanahan, the executive director of National Security Counselors, the attorney handling our case, said the memoranda issued by Hardy, Wall and Hackett amounts to a “victory” for us and for all FOIA requesters.

“Before we filed suit, the FBI, NARA, and ODNI refused to give us estimated dates of completion,” McClanahan said. “We asked the court to order them to do so and to implement policies guaranteeing as much. They voluntarily reversed their position and implemented new policies that are consistent with FOIA. We no longer have any further argument with these three agencies.”

Read the rest at Truthout.

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