FOIA request + one comment

FOIA request + one comment

Generate an FOIA request. Use an FOIA request generator. Feel free to make up the facts of the request; However, you MUST provide a rationale why such a letter might be necessary in the case that you make up!
Second page
Depending the information in the module below,  that i will attach comment on the second attachment "its a student answer", be discriptive in this section and at the end make one question?

The module, following the textbook, is divided into five major learning objectives:
• List and discuss the technical requirements for public reporting by federal agencies.
• List the main features of the Freedom of Information Act and discuss the issues related to contemporary execution of the Act.
• Discuss the main features of the Privacy Act of 1974, as well as contemporary issues in implementation.
• Articulate the meeting standards required of public decision-making bodies covered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and the Sunshine in the Government Act.
• Discuss the major provisions of whistleblowing acts and the challenges for those taking this difficult course of action.
Public Reporting and Freedom of Information

Because these topics are so clearly explained in Section 552, you are asked to refer directly to that language that is linked below. The major sections are identified in bold and enlarged. Some important language is also placed in bold. The outlining in U.S. Codes is sometimes a bit confusing, so let me remind you of the order. It is small letter, number, capital letter, Roman numeral. It looks something like this:
(a)
(1)
(2)
(A)
(B)
(i)
(ii)
(b)

Below is a series of questions that will assist you to read the text carefully and will be closely mirrored in your worksheet questions.
Questions (Questions that may be more easily answered by the text are identified by Rosenbloom.
DOCUMENT Section 552
(PDF)
1. What are the five types of information that agencies must publish in the Federal Register?
2. What are the types of information that the agencies must provide for public inspection and copying?
3. Does it include communications on computers?
4. What must the agency do if it deletes information?
5. Does the requester have the right to request a preferred format?
6. Who assists the agencies in determining a uniform schedule of fees?
7. Can fees be charged for review of documents in the search process?
8. Can fees be differentiated between those that are sought for public and scholarly purposes versus those that are sought for commercial purposes?
9. When courts intercede, can they review records in camera? (NOLO: “Latin for “in chambers.” A legal proceeding is “in camera” when a hearing is held before the judge in her private chambers or when the public is excluded from the courtroom. Proceedings are often held in camera to protect victims and witnesses from public exposure, especially if the victim or witness is a child. There is still, however, a record made of the proceeding, typically by a court stenographer. The judge may decide to seal this record if the material is extremely sensitive or likely to prejudice one side or the other.”)
10. Can an agency require advance payment for FOIA requests?
11. What is the appeal process?
12. Does the agency pay attorney fees if its denial is overturned?
13. What is the process of reprimand for those who inappropriately deny information to the public?
14. What is the initial timeframe for notifying someone making a request whether it will be denied?
15. If the information collection timeline will exceed agency guidelines, what must the agency do?
16. What constitutes “unusual circumstances” in terms of taking longer to process requests?
17. Is expedited processing allowed, and if so, when?
18. Can federal agencies make FOIA requests of one another? (Rosenbloom)
19. Does the agency have to deny requests if they fall within the exemptions? (Rosenbloom)
20. Are telephone message slips considered agency records within FOIA? (Rosenbloom)
21. Are the particular appointment calendars, as opposed to agency agendas, considered agency records within FOIA? (Rosenbloom)
22. How many exemptions are there?
23. Does an agency have to confirm the existence of a record under the national security exemption? (Rosenbloom)
24. Rosenbloom suggest that exemption 2 covers less than it would suggest. Does it generally include personal evaluations? See link.
Link: public employee evaluations
25. Can other statutes deny disclosure to certain types of information?
26. Commercial requests are actually some of the most common FOIA requests. Businesses try to get as much information about competitors as possible. What must agencies do if sensitive business information is requested related to a specific company? (Rosenbloom)
27. The inter-agency and intra-agency exemption is not immediately understandable. What types of information are really excluded? (Rosenbloom)
28. What is the important qualifying phrase for personnel and medical files?
29. What types of agencies are covered by exemption 7?
30. What types of commercial entities are covered by exemption 8?
31. What types of commercial entities are covered by exemption 9?
32. Are there more or less than 10,000 requests of the Department of Justice each year? (Rosenbloom)
33. How many appeals does the Department of Justice hear for FOIA requests alone? (Rosenbloom)
34. Who collects reports from the agencies regarding FOIA requests?
FOIA agency report: see this link for the agency reports and who collects them
(HTM)
Example of an agency FOIA report: Department of Agriculture
(PDF)
Privacy
Juxtaposed against freedom of information, is the need to provide privacy to individuals. It is important to ensure that agencies do not collect inappropriate information in the first place, that they manage it carefully, that they allow access to individuals affected to ensure accuracy, and they allow disclosure along closely monitored lines. The Privacy Act of 1974 (with subsequent amendments), ensures these principles in Section 552a.

Air Plane Logs – Public Records
(AP Photo/Joe Kafka)
Image of Sep 11, flight crash on Pentagon, released in response to a Freedom of Informat Act Request
Again we will rely on questions about the Code and the text, rather than additional discussion, to highlight the significance and details of the privacy provisions.
Several examples of privacy act requests are linked below.
DOCUMENT Section 552a
(PDF)
A Citizen’s Guide On Using The Freedom Of Information Act
And The Privacy Act of 1974 To Request Government Records
(HTM)

First Report by the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, March 20, 1997)
This excellent cite has an in-depth review of FOIA and Privacy provisions and is extremely easy to understand. Be sure to look at the section entitled: locating records.
Privacy Act Request Instructions
(PDF)

Social Security Administration Commissioner
Freedom of Information Act requests and privacy concerns

The following is an example of a privacy act letter (from “A Citizen’s Guide On Using…”)
Privacy Act Letter
Privacy Act or Freedom of Information Officer
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, State, Zip Code
Re: Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act Request for Access
Dear :
This is a request under the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Freedom of Information Act.
I request a copy of any records [or specifically named records] about me maintained at your agency.
[Optional] To help you to locate my records, I have had the following contacts with your agency: [mention job applications, periods of employment, loans or agency programs applied for, etc.].
[Optional] I am willing to pay fees for this request up to a maximum of $____. If you estimate that the fees will exceed this limit please inform me first.
[Optional] Enclosed is [a notarized signature or other identifying document] that will verify my identity.
[Optional] I also include a telephone number at which I can be contacted during the hours of ________, if necessary, to discuss any aspect of my request.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Sincerely,
Name
Address
City, State, Zip Code
Telephone number
[Optional]

The following is an example of a privacy act letter (from “A Citizen’s Guide On Using…”)
Privacy Act Letter
Privacy Act or Freedom of Information Officer
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, State, Zip Code
Re: Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act Request for Access
Dear :
This is a request under the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Freedom of Information Act.
I request a copy of any records [or specifically named records] about me maintained at your agency.
[Optional] To help you to locate my records, I have had the following contacts with your agency: [mention job applications, periods of employment, loans or agency programs applied for, etc.].
[Optional] I am willing to pay fees for this request up to a maximum of $____. If you estimate that the fees will exceed this limit please inform me first.
[Optional] Enclosed is [a notarized signature or other identifying document] that will verify my identity.
[Optional] I also include a telephone number at which I can be contacted during the hours of ________, if necessary, to discuss any aspect of my request.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Sincerely,
Name
Address
City, State, Zip Code
Telephone number
[Optional]

Questions
1. Does the Privacy Act apply to corporations, associations, and other organizations? (Rosenbloom)
2. What is a matching program? (a)
3. What are the exceptions for the requirement of written consent? (b)
4. If an agency releases records under its control, what must it do?
5. How long does an agency have to respond to a request for an amendment to an individual’s record? (d)
6. If an agency refuses to make an amendment, what can an individual do? (d)
7. What is the major underlying principle that must be used in the collection of data? (e)
8. What must an agency do when any record on an individual is made available to any person under compulsory legal processes when such process becomes a matter of public record? (e)
9. What do allowable fees include? (f)
10. Has much litigation been spawned by the Privacy Act? (Rosenbloom)
11. What is the maximum penalty for those who knowingly violate the Privacy Act? (i)
12. Can an individual’s name and address be sold or rented by an agency? (n)
13. In U.S. Department of Defense v. Federal Labor Relations Authority (1994), what did the Supreme Court hold with regard to releasing addresses of employees to an authorized union group representing the employees? (Rosenbloom)
14. What types of procedures or standards does an agency have to employ when using matching programs? (p)
15. What is the name of the board that each agency must have that reviews matching programs? (u)
16. Who has general oversight over the agencies in terms of privacy provisions and reporting to the President? (v)
17. If you are making a privacy act request, what helps expedite the request?
(http://www.tncrimlaw.com/foia_indx.html :locating records
18. Do agencies use different personnel to process FOIA and Privacy Act requests?
(http://www.tncrimlaw.com/foia_indx.html : see Requirements of Agency Response)

Open Meetings

The two major pieces of legislation in this area are the Government in the Sunshine Act of 1976 and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) of 1972 (also discussed in Chapter 3). The Sunshine Act applies to multiheaded boards of agencies in the federal government. Similarly, FACA requires advisory boards on whose advice the government relies heavily have open meetings (but FACA does not apply to advisory boards made up solely of government employees).
All states have similar statutes for their own agencies as well as local government. For example, the State of Nebraska’s open meeting law covers the following: “Under § 84-1409(1), public bodies covered by the public meetings statutes include:
1.    governing bodies of all state political subdivisions
2.    governing bodies of all agencies of the executive department of state government created by law
3.    all independent boards, commissions, bureaus, committees, councils, subunits, or any other bodies created pursuant to state law
4.    all study or advisory committees of the executive department of the state whether of continuing or limited existence
5.    advisory committees of the governing bodies of political subdivisions, of the governing bodies of agencies of the executive branch of state government,or of independent boards commissions, etc.
6.    “instrumentalities exercising essentially public functions.”

Some useful links and questions are listed below.
Section 552b
(PDF)
general reference to state and local government open meeting law
(HTM)
example of Minnesota open meeting laws
(PDF)
example of Nebraska’s open meeting laws
(HTM)
example of violation
(HTM)
example of alleged violation
(HTM)
Questions about open meetings
1.    How many members are required to constitute an open meeting?
2.    Does the open meeting law require disclosure of classified information?
3.    Does the open meeting law exempt solely internal personnel rules and practices?
4.    Is it possible for other statutes to specifically exempt information from disclosure?
5.    Are trade secrets and financial information from individuals generally exempted from disclosure?
6.    Is formal censure of a person exempted?
7.    Are investigatory records compiled for law enforcement exempted?
8.    Do financial institutions (in terms of the information gathered for their supervision) have special exemptions?
9.    Is there a premature disclosure exemption in the federal statute?
10.    When can a meeting be closed and who must authorize it?
11.    Does this exempt the agency from maintaining a transcript?
12.    Does a violation of an open meeting law generally allow Federal courts to set aside decisions made in those meetings?
13.    Does the open meeting law allow for the withholding of certain types of information from Congress?
Whistle-blower Protection

Whistleblowers Rights Lawsuit
(AP Photo/Ric Francis)
General whistle-blower protection was written into the Civil Service Act of 1978. This was strengthened by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 which extended the rights to threats of retaliation, reduced the exclusive reliance on whistleblowing for illegal retaliation, raised the government’s burden of persuasion, and permits the Merit Systems Protection Board to initiate cases when a Special Counsel does not. Nonetheless, whistleblowing is a challenging road to follow, frequently resulting in either dead-ended careers or time consuming litigation.
A special case is whistleblowing regarding wrongdoing by federal contractors. This is covered by the False Claims Act of 1863 (revised in 1986) which authorizes private individuals as well as government employees to expose fraud and cheating against the government. Success in such cases can lead to substantial financial rewards totaling billions of dollars in total. These cases are often called qui tam (=who as well) action which means that the case is essentially brought by individuals on behalf of the government. In the federal case, the Department of Justice may or may not participate in actions that are litigated. According to Bauman and Rasor’s webpage: “The qui tam provision has had the effect of privatizing government legal remedies by allowing private citizens to act as “private attorneys general” in the effort to prosecute government procurement and program fraud. Although most of the early successes in qui tam actions have been against defense contractors, more and more actions are being filed that involve other governmental agencies such as Health and Human Services, Environment, Energy, Education, NASA, Agriculture and Transportation. U.S. recoveries for qui tam cases, as of the end of 2003, has totaled $7.8 billion. During the same period, relator shares, as a result of the recoveries, has totaled $1.3 billion.”
Most states have versions of whistleblowing laws but, unlike privacy and open meeting laws where there is considerable consistency, there is little consistency among them.
whistleblowing
(an article from the Christian Science Monitor about alleged recent government efforts to reduce whistleblowing)
(HTM)
Qui Tam Information Center
(an excellent source from a law firm specializing in qui tam actions)
(HTM)
whistleblowing
(another excellent source from a law firm on whistleblowing)
(HTM)

Posting #1: Go to a state other than California and look up the open meeting laws, privacy laws, OR FOIA laws. Briefly report (250 words or so) on what you discover, especially variances from the Federal model. For example, California open meeting laws are covered in Government Code Sections 11120-11132 and 54950-63. You would read these sections, analyze them, and report to your group on what you discover.

Posting #2: Comment on ONE colleague.  ALSO, Generate an FOIA request. Use an FOIA request generator. Feel free to make up the facts of the request; I am interested in the process and the form. However, you MUST provide a rationale why such a letter might be necessary in the case that you make up! Copy the letter you create and attach it as a word document or you can paste it into the reply.

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