Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Committee Meeting – July 21, 2015


Good morning [pre-meeting chatter] David Ferriero: Good morning. Multiple Speakers: Good morning. David Ferriero: And good morning to those
of you who are on the phone. This is David Ferriero, archivist. I want to start by welcoming our newest member,
Sean Moulton. I keep calling him Seth Walton, (inaudible). I’m from Massachusetts, (inaudible)
joined in Washington. Welcome. You have a great background, coming from POGO,
and also the Center for Effective Government. What I liked is your sales pitch about your
background, in terms of your — especially your technology background. And creation of
websites, and your focus on FOIA. So you’re a perfect match for the — for the group.
So welcome aboard. Sean Moulton: Thank you very much. David Ferriero: And welcome, to the rest of
you, for joining us this morning. Just a few words to thank you for the work that you’re
doing. FOIA’s function in increasing government openness and accountability is often described
as a cornerstone of democracy. And the administration continues to emphasize FOIA’s importance
in the larger open government landscape. As you know, this committee was created to
help the administration meet its goal of modernizing FOIA. As the White House continues drafting
the third Open Government National Action Plan, I encourage you all to recognize the
critical role that you have in shaping the improvement and strengthening of FOIA. We
recently passed the one-year anniversary of this advisory committee. This is a good time
to consider what you have accomplished, and think about what the future holds. You began
this effort by growing upon your considerable FOIA experience and knowledge to identify
three of the most challenging issues facing FOIA. Fees, proactive disclosure, and oversight
and accountability. I, along with the rest of the FOIA community,
have watched with interest as the subcommittees you organized around these topics have had
substantive discussions about ways to approach each issue. We’re very interested to see
the results of these surveys, distributed by two of the subcommittees in June, and then
seeing what steps the committees decided to take next. NARA, as the nation’s record
keeper, is grateful for the opportunity to support the work of this committee, and we
look forward to following your continued work in the year ahead. And as I announce the new
director of OGIS, I want to take this opportunity to thank Nikki, (applause) and the rest of
the OGIS staff for the work they have performed to provide outstanding service to the agencies
into the American public since Miriam left. Effective 9 August, James Holzer will become
the second OGIS director. Many of you know him from his work at DHS, where he has served
as senior director of FOIA operations since 2009. Let me quote from the notice which goes
out today: “Dr. Holzer served as the senior advisor to the department’s executive-level
leaders throughout DHS on compliance with FOIA and the Privacy Act, and DHS policies,
programs, and agreements that promote adherence to information disclosure principles.” In
addition, he spearheaded the implementation of the Department’s enterprise-wide FOIA
tracking processing, and reporting case management system. He supervised a team of FOIA professionals
that performs a variety of program activities, that often involve unique and sensitive matters
relating to FOIA PA administration within the DHS. Prior to joining the Department of
Homeland Security, Dr. Holzer served in the US Air Force for 13 years on active duty,
where he worked extensively in matters involving administrative policies, financial management,
material management operations, and management of wholesale supply activities. He deployed
to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and in Afghanistan in 2007, participating
in ground convoys for intel fact finding to remote villages. He received a doctorate of
management at the University of Maryland, University College. His dissertation examines
strategy formulation in three US federal agencies, providing preliminary insight into a range
of behavioral strategies in the federal sector. And his previous degrees include a master
of human relations degree from the University of Oklahoma, and a BS in business from Embry-Riddle
Aeronautical University. Dr. Holzer’s experience administrating FOIA and his demonstrated commitment
to transparency will benefit OGIS in the National Archives. So I look forward to working with
James, and I’m sure that you will also. So thanks for being here this morning. Thanks
for joining us. (comments off mic; inaudible) Nikki Gramian: (inaudible) Good morning. Thank
you all for joining us today for the FOIA Advisory Committee’s fifth meeting. I know
you all will join me in thanking the National Archives and Records Administration for being
the host agency for the committee, and I want to give a special thanks to the archivist
for opening the meeting to us today. I would also like to thank the chief operating officer’s
office in assisting us with two surveys that launched for members — for FOIA — for chief
FOIA officers and FOIA specialists. They assisted our office tremendously. As I mentioned before, as you know all know,
I’m Nikki Gramian, I’m the deputy director, currently acting, but obviously not for long.
(laughter) And I’m also the acting chair for this committee. I do have a brief update on the committee
membership, as the archivist introduced, Sean Moulton. Ginger McCall stepped down from the
committee to accept a position in the Federal government. As many of you are aware, Ms.
McCall served as the non-government and — non-government member. And she was also the co-chair on the
fees subcommittee. Nate Jones volunteered to serve as the non-government co-chair on
the fees subcommittee, and the archivist appointed Sean to replace Ms. McCall’s position as
the non-government member. I’m going to give a little bit of a background
for Sean. Sean is the open government program manager at the Project on Government Oversight,
POGO. And he oversees the efforts to develop the blueprint the next president can use to
build a more open and accountable government. Before joining POGO, Sean worked for over
a decade on transparency and government accountability issues, with special attention to the freedom
of information issues, transparency, environmental right to know policies. He has authored reports,
testified before Congress, submitted comments on proposed regulations, and has helped launch
public disclosure websites. Sean led the Center for Effective Government’s
open government work for 13 years. He has also worked at Friends of the Earth, US Environmental
Protection Agency, and the Council on Economic Priorities. Sean, we’re glad to have you,
and welcome to our committee. Sean Moulton: Thank you very much. Nikki Gramian: I also would like to spend
a few — next few minutes introducing the members who are also around the table, as
well as on the telephone. As a reminder, the committee members’ bios are available on
the committee’s webpage, which is available at OGIS.Archives.Gov. We are videotaping this
meeting, and will make the video and transcripts, and the meeting materials available on the
committee’s webpage. For the record, it will help if you all can
remember to identify yourself by name, and also affiliation when you speak. Committee
member Melanie Pustay, the director of the Department of Justice Office of Information
Policy is unable to join us today. We look forward to seeing her at our next meeting
in October. And so with that said, let’s start with
the members on the phone. Who do we (inaudible) — Nikki Gramian: Mr. Bahr? Dave Bahr: Yeah. Good morning to everybody. Nikki Gramian: Good morning. If you would
please identify your profession. Dave Bahr: Oh, yes. My name’s Dave Bahr,
I’m a lawyer, I represent the requester community on public records matters all around
the country. Nikki Gramian: Wonderful. Thank you so much.
Mr. Becker? Andrew Becker: This is Andrew Becker. I’m
a reporter with the Center for Investigative Reporting, representing journalists. Nikki Gramian: Great. Thank you so much. Also,
I don’t know if Nate Jones was able to join us, Nate? Nate Jones: Yeah, I’m here. Nate Jones from
the National Security Archives. Nate Jones: (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)
little bit to hear you guys, to make this work and crank you up. Nikki Gramian: OK. Great. Thank you. _: Nate’s in Europe right now, of course.
He’s very busy. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) Nikki Gramian: Very dedicated. Wonderful.
Do we have anyone else on the phone? Lee White: Lee White, director of the National
Coalition for History. Nikki Gramian: Wonderful. Thank you, Lee.
OK. So now, let’s hear from the folks who are in this room. If you all would please
introduce yourselves and remind the group about your profession. Let’s start with
my left. I do see Maggie Mulvihill’s nametag there. Maggie’s on her way. She’s — she
should be joining us around 11:00. So she’ll just join us when she gets in here. Marty? Marty Michalosky: Good morning. My name’s
Marty Michalosky, I’m the FOIA manager at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Jim Hogan: Hi, I’m Jim Hogan, chief of DOD,
Department of Defense, FOIA policy, and the director for oversight compliance. Ramona Branch Oliver: Ramona Branch Oliver:,
director of the Office of Information Services at the Department of Labor. Larry Gottesman: Larry Gottesman with the
Environmental Protection Agency. Mark S. Zaid: Mark Zaid, private practitioner
and executive director of the James Madison Project. Anne Weismann: Anne Weismann, now executive
director of the Campaign for Accountability. Clay Johnson: I’m Clay Johnson, I’m the
chairman of the Department of Better Technology, which is not a governmental organization.
And I’m also the chairman of the Chattahoochee Hills Charter School, which is new. So that’s
fun. David Pritzker: I’m David Pritzker, deputy
general counsel of the Administrative Conference of the United States, which is — though little
known — a government agency. (laughter) Brent Evitt: I’m Brent Evitt. I’m deputy
general counsel for Mission Services Science and Technology for the Defense Intelligence
Agency. Sean Moulton: Sean Moulton, Project on Government
Oversight. Nikki Gramian: Thank you all. And also, please
let me introduce the members of OGIS staff, who support the committee’s operation. We
have Christa Lemelin, the Advisory Committee’s designated federal officer. And I have to
thank you, Christa, for all that you do. She’s the lifeline. Christa Lemelin: Right back at you. Nikki Gramian: Thank you. We also have Amy
Bennett, who kindly agreed to be our note-taker today, and has been instrumental in helping
us prepare for today’s meeting. Before we dive into the work we’re about
to do, I want to share some details on how today’s meeting will work, and also cover
some basic expectations and ground rules for our session. We are going to take about a
15-minute break halfway through this meeting, which should be around 11, 11:15. While no
food or drinks are allowed in this room, you may — Christa Lemelin: Other than this table. Nikki Gramian: Other than this table. Thank
you. Christa Lemelin: (inaudible) Nikki Gramian: You may wish to grab something
quickly from the Charters Café, located two levels down on the ground floor. Actually,
it would be on the basement floor. It would be at B, which is also where the restrooms
are located. Again, all of the information about this committee
is maintained on our webpage. We will meet up to four times per year. Both on today’s
meeting agenda and also on OGIS’s website, the dates of the committee’s upcoming meetings
are listed. We selected Tuesday, the third week of the month, unless the dates would
have conflicted with the holiday. And as you all know, during our first meeting, and as
also, the archivist explained, we’ve created — there was creation of the three subcommittees.
These committees are FOIA Oversight and Accountability, Proactive Disclosure, and the FOIA fees. Welcome, Delores. Delores Barber: (Whispers) Thank you. Sorry. Nikki Gramian: With notification to the designated
federal officer, that’s Christa Lemelin, the subcommittees may schedule meetings in
addition to the larger committee meetings. At our last meeting, I stated that the subcommittees
are subject to the same notice and open meeting requirements. However, I wish to correct the
record by stating that the subcommittees do not have the same pre– notice and open meeting
requirements as the full committee, because per the bylaws, the subcommittees report back
to the full committees. So I wanted to make that correction. Today, we will hear updates from each of those
subcommittees. The — this is, again, the Committee on Freedom of Information, according
(inaudible) want to work — we want to work to be as open, transparent, and participatory
as possible. We are really glad to see so many folks interested in this room, and thank
you all for coming. And we also have set aside a period of time at the end of the meeting
for public comments. So we look forward to hearing from any non-committee members who
might like to, you know, make a comment at the end of the program. With that said, let’s move to the approval
of our meeting minutes for January 27th, 2015, and also, April 21st, 2015, meetings. As you
may all recall during our April 21st meeting, David Pritzker brought to our attention, there
were some areas in our draft January 27th, 2015 minute meetings. And the committee members
were given a chance to review the corrected copy that they had made revisions to. Are
there any other corrections to the minutes? Great. We will now entertain a motion to approve
the minutes. Do we have a motion? Clay Johnson: So moved. Nikki Gramian: Do we have a second? Multiple speakers: Second. Nikki Gramian: All in favor? Multiple speakers: Aye. Nikki Gramian: All opposed? Great, the minutes
are approved. Let’s move to the April 21st meeting minutes. The committee members were
given a chance to review a copy of the minutes from the April 21st, 2015 meetings. Are there
any corrections to the meeting minutes? We will now entertain a motion to approve the
minutes. Do we have a motion? Male: So moved. Nikki Gramian: Do we have a second? Male: Second. Nikki Gramian: All in favor? Multiple speakers: I. Nikki Gramian: All opposed? The minutes will
be approved. Great. Thank you all. We will now spend the bulk of the meeting
hearing from the subcommittees on their work. Each subcommittee will spend about 30 minutes
on their activities, which include a report of where their work stands, and any discussions
or brainstorming they would like to have with, you know, federal committee members. We want
to be sure each subcommittee has a clear path for work for the coming months as they continue
working to make recommendations to improve FOIA, as directed upon the creation of this
committee in the second open government national action plan. With that said, let’s hear from the Oversight
and Accountability Subcommittee Chairs, Martin and Mark. If you would please update the committee
(inaudible). Marty Michalosky: Thank you, Nikki. The committee
did not meet over the last quarter. However, there were some updates and that work that
was transpiring over that period of time. So specifically, I want to call up on three
things this committee has taken on, and the efforts, among this created — we’ve been
updating for the last couple weeks. So first, the effort
to identify current authorities for oversight and accountability, take actions, or actions
what have been kind of written about, are reports or audits and so forth over the last
10 years. As previously reported, Mr. Jones has published on our subcommittee’s website,
a variety of reports that have been uncovered over that period of time. And I think you
can go back slightly beyond the 10 years. He has already started reviewing those, and
doing some preliminary work to identify trends, or themes, or actions to follow up on, and
for us to kind of evaluate. Also, we asked for input from all of you and the public,
as well as other committee members, on items that may have been picked up, or peer reviewed
if you have an opportunity to do that. Mr. Jones has also subsequently, over the
last quarter, identified approximately 30 more Inspector General reports that deal with
FOIA in some way. They’re going to be shared on the subcommittee’s website here shortly.
I don’t believe they’re up today, but they will be shortly, and we’ll add that
to the collection. And again, continue to review those as well. And hopefully, by the
next meeting, we have some preliminary data to share with you on what we found in
those reports. And again, I want to echo the opportunity
for you to participate as well. So if you know of a report that we have not posted,
please send that in. If you’re looking at the reports and you see some trends that maybe
we have already evaluated and identified, and maybe we haven’t, please send those
in as well as comments so we can, you know, take your information and things that you
have seen, and consider them as well. The second effort that we’ve taken on is
to evaluate past litigation review efforts, determining maybe opportunities for action
going forward. So this goes back to litigation review that has been done in the past regarding
FOIA. And our team has taken that on for review. I don’t really have an update on that, just
following up on what we talked about previously. TRAC has a very similar activity going on
in a project that they’re reviewing. Similar litigation efforts that have been taken place, evaluating those. We
are tracking TRAC. Make sense? But we don’t have any updates specifically on that for
passive memo. And the last thing that I think both the Archivist and Nikki touched upon, and we’ve reported that we were attempting to do it in the past,
was doing an assessment for a full FOIA public liaison. So we sent this out on June 22nd.
Well, let me back up a minute. So we work closely with OGIS, and even the National Archives,
to put together a poll — or a survey, if you want to call it that. And basically, that
was an opportunity to give FOIA professionals and the Federal Government who are FOIA public
liaisons or do that role, maybe that’s not their title, if they do that role within their
agency. An opportunity to really share their background, their training, other opportunities
as they see it. It collected a lot of the data, and that was our attempt to do, is give
them an opportunity to tell us what’s going on, as well as us collect some information
to evaluate and see if there’s, again, trends or things that we can offer as opportunity
to improve that interaction with the public, and ultimately improve the administration
of FOIA in the Federal Government. We sent that out on June 22nd after we worked
with the National Archives and OGIS, and finalized that within the subcommittee. It consisted
of 15 questions. If you were on the committee’s website, it’s actually posted there. If
you want to review some of the questions and information that we sought to collect from
FOIA public liaisons. In general, the questions — the survey questions
focused on, again, training, are resources adequate? Is there proper management, and
what’s the connection like with FOIA requesters? If they want to share any of their opinions
or suggestions to make FOIA better, which is what we’re trying to do here. The survey closes tomorrow. As of right now,
we almost have 90 respondents that have sent in information, which is pretty good, since
we sent it out to the 100 agencies that are responsible for FOIA right now. So having
90 respondents is, I think is pretty good, and should get us a pretty good baseline to
evaluate the information and assess kind of what’s going on from their point of view,
and also evaluate opportunities, again, to improve. Once OGIS has collected the data, the subcommittee
is going to go ahead and review that, and analyze it. And then ultimately, what we’re
going to do is we’ll report back to the committee, and then finally, we will publish
it in some way to the public. So rather that means raw data. As an idea, again, this isn’t
anything that I’m confirming that we’re going to do, but some things (inaudible) sharing
the raw data, or sharing — or creating a report page, sharing what we found in there.
So there’s a lot of opportunities to ease that data, and a very good way to improve
FOIA and identify opportunities for improvement. That concludes the subcommittee report, unless
Mark has anything to add. Mark S. Zaid: I’m good, Marty. You did a
brilliant job. Marty Michalosky: Thank you. Nikki Gramian: All right. Thank you so much.
So let’s turn now to the fees subcommittee. That’s co-chaired by Jim Hogan and Nate
Jones. Nate is obviously — is on the phone, so we’ll just turn to Jim to provide us
with — Jim Hogan: Nate, we hope everything’s going
well in Europe. Nate Jones: Well, I’m doing good. Jim Hogan: Just to talk about the genesis
of the subcommittee. When this committee first met a year ago, we had that brainstorming
session to figure out, you know, what do we want to look at in the two years that the
committee is going to meet? And one issue that came up was fees. And the perception
is, whether it’s fashionable, the perception some of us have is — this is a major issue
between FOIA requesters and FOIA professionals in the Federal Government. The application
of the fee categories to request the — whether requester qualifies for a fee waiver or not.
The proper assessment of fees, once determined. And a lot of issues are related to that. And in my position at the Department of Defense,
I think that’s a major training issue we have, you know, with hundreds of people we
have out in the field, and keep them trained in fees. And the perception is it’s a very
subjective call. It can — can be a way to improve the way the FOIA handles fees. We’ve
looked at what different countries do, primarily United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, Australia,
and I think Mexico, we look at what they did. Very — everybody does it differently. Some
countries require fees, a minimum fee for all requests. And I believe Canada does that. So we did that a little bit, and — but we
still want to find out, do we — do we really have an issue here? Is it more of just a training
issue? Or what? So that’s where we’ll be going. One of our objectives, possibly,
when this committee is wrapped up, is to have a legislative proposal. And that, I believe
that’s part of OGIS’s charter, is to propose legislative changes to the Hill. So we might
have something that order. Also, you know, in the back of our mind is the OMB is responsible
for fee guidelines. Maybe me and the subcommittee, maybe we’ll give some ideas on how to revise
that. We’re not sure yet right now, but legislative proposal is one thing. And it
depends on what we find out in the next nine months or so. When we last met on July 9th, at the National
Security Archive, we thank Nate for hosting us. Unfortunately, unlike Ginger, he didn’t
have any cookies available for us. But Nate’s our new co-chair. We do appreciate hosting
all these — myself and Nate were there, everybody else was on the phone. Our discussion included three areas. One is
a current fees survey that’s right now being conducted among FOIA professionals. And another
one, another category is talking about doing research and the ability of agencies to waive
fees as a matter of discretion. That was discussed a little bit at the last committee meeting.
And also, a new survey, a proposed piece survey for FOIA requesters. We do have a current
survey out, just as the oversight accountability committee has one out to put — or the subcommittee
has them out to public liaisons, working through NARA. And we thank Christa for work — for
getting us — to go through all the wickets and the bureaucracy of getting these surveys
out there, knowing what it’s like from doing our agencies ourselves. But this one, going
out to the federal FOIA officers. And July 21st, we had over 375, and this morning, we
have over 400 respondents now. So we expect quite a bit of data coming in. The FOIA professionals ask a variety of questions,
and also for some written inputs. Again, tomorrow is the last day of the survey, and hopefully
we get a few more in today. And then we’re going to meet probably around the second week
in August, the subcommittee will meet to discuss the survey results, and figure out what are
we going to do with all this data, and try to go through it. I expect that to be a major
job, and hopefully accompli– something, get something, hard facts from the field for the
DOD FOIA — or excuse me, all government FOIA professionals. You know, is it a training
issue? Is it — what is it? Because again, we want to — it’s difficult to eliminate,
but at least reduce this area of, I’d say, adversity is not the right word, but the sort
of word between FOIA requesters and FOIA professionals. I think I see it way too often. And so we’ll
be meeting late August, and by next committee meeting in October, we’ll have at least
a preliminary report on what the data came up, see what we can do with that. We also discussed — and this is something,
it just came up a few months ago — building for agencies to actually waive fees as a matter
of discretion. And so we’re going to raise that issue with different government agencies.
Once (inaudible) is appropriate. I mean, are there requirements? Do we have to charge fees
if requester is not qualified for a fee waiver? Or can agencies, as a matter of discretion,
not charge fees? I know in some agencies, even if it’s not written, there may be certain
cases where they will not charge fees. It may be a next-of-kin, asking them for information
on someone as deceased. You know, information like that, so that may be a possibility. One
issue that may come up is fairness. I mean, you know, if matter of discretions and agency-waived
fees in case A but not case B, could that be an issue? So we’ll look into that and
see if it’s appropriate. If we can waive fees, what are the pros and cons? And would
we encourage agencies to do this? And those other issues, we’ll be exploring in that
area. And then the third thing we talk about is
another survey, yet another one. This one goes out to the public. More wickets to deal
with that our Designated Federal Officer Christa will handle those. I appreciate that, because
we’re collecting data from the public, and all kinds of rules on that. So we’re going
to go, and those requesters here in the room who are listening to this, hopefully we’ll
get this in the next few months. And we’ve circulated proposal questions. We’ve gone
around among the subcommittee, and then we’ve submitted them to the designated federal officer.
And when we think that will be very valuable information, because we have — those of us
who are in the government really do not, I believe, have a good idea of how the public
perceives how we address fees, in some ways. Again, is it a training issue rather than
a field? And there’s one way — here inside the beltway,
there’s one way to look at these kind of issues than out in the field. I’ll give
you different types of requesters. You may have logged public interest groups here, but
they’re not feeling — and Dave Bahr, our subcommittee, works with different types of
requesters. And he has a different — a very different perspective I think from those of
us here inside the beltway. So that’s very valuable. But we’ll get it from them, and
see what kind of data we can get. And so this’ll help in our — obtaining our final objective
is, you know, sometimes legislative proposal, possibly to revise these. We can — we have
no idea what kind of answers we’re going to get, but we hopefully can get some good
value with that. Because I don’t think there’s ever been a survey accomplished in almost,
what, 50 years of the FOIA where I’m going out to see what the issues are in this respect.
So looking forward to having to have that come back. So… Nikki Gramian: Does anybody have any comments
here? Anybody wants to? No comments? All right. Delores Barber: Very quiet today. Jim Hogan: Wait until the data comes in. Nikki Gramian: Well, typically, after the
two committees are — have already report — you know, provide their reports, we usually
have a break. But I think this is — you know, we can either go on and finish with the — is
that something — OK. All right. So then we’ll skip the — Marty Michalosky: Nikki, I have one question. Nikki Gramian: Yes, please. Marty Michalosky: This is Marty Michalosky
for those on the phone. Jim, just going back to the matter of discretion, have you con–
how many agencies have you contacted, and what did you find out? Were there some that
did take discretion with fees or not? I’m just curious. Jim Hogan: We really haven’t — Nate, can
you answer that question? Have you done any research on that? I mean, you were looking
into it. Nate Jones: Yeah. We looked at just a small
handful. But what I’ve seen with the informal look is that there are multiple — at least
three that I know of, that had some type of language in their regulations, including yours,
Marty, that allows for administrative discretion to waive fees when it’s in the agency’s
interest, or some language like that. So we haven’t done a comprehensive regulation,
but there is certainly precedent. And I think even the DOJ OIP’s regulation has something
along those lines, allowing administrative discretion to waive some point of fees. Jim Hogan: OK. That’s good. And I look forward
to maybe getting some in depth answers from this agency. I’m sorry, Marty, (inaudible). Marty Michalosky: I was just going to say
thanks. Thanks for the update. Anne Weismann: I j– this is Anne Weismann.
I just want to add that we’ve also reached out to some people in different agencies to
get a sense of what — if they have a general understanding that they’re operating under.
So we’re exploring that as well. Jim Hogan: And one thing, for Department of
Defense, we don’t have anything in our regulations about discretionary, you know, fee waiver.
I don’t think it’s ever come up. No one’s even brought it up to us, and we never really
thought about it. I do know — as I was sort of alluding to before, I do know that some
of our departments will not charge next-of-kin of soldiers who have died in battle or died
in some other ways for release of information to them. You know, but again, it’s not written.
Anyway. Larry Gottesman: Hey Jim, this is Larry Gottesman.
Have you reached out to OMB? Are they going to issue some new fee guidance? Jim Hogan: We haven’t directly contacted
OMB at this time. Now, that’ll probably be a next step in the next few months, especially
once we get the data in from — Larry Gottesman: Yeah. Because that goes back
a few years, the less guidance. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) Jim Hogan: Twenty-eight. (inaudible) Larry Gottesman: Actually, more. Nikki Gramian: Thank you all. Thank you so
much. Any other comments? No? OK. So let’s move to the proactive disclosure subcommittee.
And I know Eric is not here, so we’re going to turn to Brent and see what we have. Brent Evitt: Sure. This is Brent Evitt. Eric
Gillespie and I are co-chairing the proactive disclosure subcommittee. We’ve had one meeting
together a couple of months back to sort of decide what direction we were going to head
on. It’s a very interesting topic, of course, because there isn’t a lot of tension out
there about proactive disclosures, at least the concept. You know, I think FOIA officers
and requesters alike look at the — you know, the topic, and say, “Well, we’re all in
favor of proactive disclosures. It’s a question of how? How do you make this happen, how do
you encourage it, how do you facilitate it?” And so that’s where Eric and I have started
from. I would encourage anybody who wants to join us at the next meeting to come along,
and we’ll continue the discussion. Because when you get into the how do you make it happen
topic, that’s where it gets kind of difficult. And I think FOIA program managers and FOIA
requesters probably have some different ideas in that regard. So we have sort of started looking at a couple
of things. First, looking at the role that the statute, the regulations, the procedures
play in encouraging proactive disclosures. You know, we hear a lot in the FOIA community
about rules that can help, rules that can hurt. What role do these — you know, these
policies play? And how do they — how do they guide us? How do they make it better? And the second topic that we’re looking
at is the — we’re trying to explore how technology affects proactive disclosure, because
I believe — and I think you’re — that’s also that a lot of this is a technological
question. You know, we all have used different systems, we — we reach a final product. How
do you push that product out, and make it publicly available? We’re also looking at
how you identify what records are really in demand. You know, if you’re an agency with
limited resources, how do you decide, you know, what you get out the door through proactive
disclosure first. And, you know, the technological issues we’ve
identified so far are both big and small. You know, in agencies like mine, they can
be pretty significant, because, you know, in my case, we use a system that is not public
facing, and it’s not connected to the open internet. Then there is — there are some
bureaucratic hurdles to get over, because sometimes the people who handle proactive
disclosure are from the office of the chief information officer, and they — they don’t
always understand the FOIA world. So we’re maintaining that as well. We agreed that we would start by looking at
maybe one or two agencies that we had some connection to. I think we’re going to start
with my agency first and talk to some people, and just see if we can start validating our
own ideas in collecting the ideas of others. And so, you know, we would invite the public,
invite the other members of the committee, to submit whatever thoughts you have on proactive
disclosures. How do we make it better? How do we make it more efficient? And that’s
where we stand at this moment. Nikki Gramian: One question that comes to
my mind, and we often hear, is the FOIA professionals of FOIA shops, often complain that when the
proactive disclosure, you know, information is requested, which one should they deal with?
Their backlog, or the proactive disclosure? Brent Evitt: Yeah, that’s the nu– (inaudible)
correct me, but that’s the number one complaint that I’ve always heard, is FOIA program
management saying, look, I’m all in favor of proactive disclosure, but we need to find
a way to make it so fundamental to the system, so engrained in the system, that at the end
of the process, it’s the press of a button, and it’s proactively disclosed. And get
— build a system where information can funnel through and — and go straight to a proactive
disclosure website, or however we get it out there, without eating into the processing
pending request. So we can’t hurt ourselves on one front by helping ourselves on another. Jim Hogan: (inaudible) Jim Hogan here, Department
of Defense, and I agree with Brent on that and Nikki. That’s a — because FOIA officers
are most qualified to review. So one thing maybe to explore is having it engrained in
the process, when documents, and, say, memos or letters are created that, you know, you
have everybody giving their inputs, and reviewing and everything like that. You know, the higher
level it is, the more people look at that within a process is, is this publicly reasonable,
yes or no? You know, and if everybody checks yes, it’s done, you know? And the creation
process. You know, somehow we get that into the process, that’d be good. I don’t know
if it’s possible. Brent Evitt: Yeah. It’s a good point, Jim. Jim Hogan: Yeah, and if it can be, you know?
Especially on a high level correspondence. Brent Evitt: You know, this — this is Brent
Evitt again — one thing that Eric pointed out in our first meeting that I don’t think
I had ever really thought about, you know, I was saying, “Well, look, we have a lot
of information in our agency that is routine. It’s administrative. It’s somewhat mundane.”
It wouldn’t be that difficult to give that information out the door. And Eric very wisely
pointed out, yes, but does anybody care about that information? Maybe focus on the information
that people care about. Clay Johnson: Well, yeah, that’s — I appreciate
that sentiment, but, you know, no one cared about bird strikes on airplanes until a plane
landed in the Hudson, right? And so the idea of, you know, someone caring about it in the
past has served no bearing on — Brent Evitt: Well — and this is Brent again
— and my point is, we have to do both. So… Clay Johnson: Sure. Just to — because I started
talking. This is Clay Johnson, and, you know, I like the idea of DIA being one of the sort
of, you know, test grounds for proactive disclosure. I would caution that it’s because it’s
an agency that’s really not well connected to the open internet, it may not be — it
shouldn’t probably be the only agency past that. Brent Evitt: This is Brent again. Absolutely.
We’re going to have to sample a bunch of different agencies, see how — see how everyone
faces this issue. Where you need a copy of the slate? Clay Johnson: And as you guys — my last comment
on this, is as you guys move forward, it — it may be interesting to ask our frontline FOIA
professionals, you know, what — and our various agencies what software they’re actually
using to run their FOIA processes, and what their satisfaction is with that software.
You know, I hate to get too deep in the weeds on that, but understanding what their — the
resources that they have at their disposal in order to manage these processes may be
a question worth asking. And information worth sharing. That’s all. Anne Weismann: This is Anne Weisman. One of
the things I would encourage you to look at, I think one of the issues you identified was
prioritizing, which I think is key. I mean, we saw that, which is the open government
directive that had all these agencies put out high value data sets. And what they labeled
high value, many of us thought was junk, frankly. One thing you might want to take a look at
— and I’m sure Sean Moulton has this — is that from the access community, we put together
years ago, and have been pushing it for years, a sort of list of common data sets that are
common to all agencies that we believe are the kinds of information that should routinely
be made in a proactively disclosed — everything from visitor logs to IG reports to contract
information. So that might be, I think, worthwhile, looking
at also because, it does represent a consensus among a lot of different open government groups. Brent Evitt: And this is Brent again. Thank
you, that’s very useful. Delores Barber: Brent, I have a — this is
Delores Barber from DHS. I have — first, I want to echo Anne’s comments. I was going
to say the same thing. I guess we’re communicating through our fillings today. And that there
are — when you mentioned routine documents that all agencies have to deal with, particularly
with contracts. And the other comment I wanted to make was we often — DHS often gets called
up on the hill to testify about our FOIA, our massive FOIA operations. And with the questions for the record comeback,
we are often asked, “When you release records proactively, does that cut down on your workload?”
And I think there may be a perception that you want to explore out there, that if you
release records proactively, your workload will decrease. But I have not seen that in
practice in several different agencies that I’ve worked at. And I think it is important
to release records proactively, of course, but they have to be the ones that people care
about, and you have to stay up on the news to see what might be emerging. But that — it
decreases your workload? I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. But I think there
is a perception out there, particularly on the hill, that it should, or it does, in some
way. And this committee might be useful in separating those two issues, because the workload
is one thing, dealing with your backlog, and then figuring out what the public wants to
see proactively is separate. And my other comment is about the work that
is being done now called release to one, release to all. And how the proactive subcommittee
might be able to connect with that group, and so that we, you know, could cross pollinate
or avoid any duplication of effort. And my comment, finally, is because I’ve
made all of these suggestions, I’m going to join the proactive subcommittee. Brent Evitt: (laughter) All right. This is
Brent. Thank you very much, I appreciate it. Glad to have you. Mark S. Zaid: Brent, this — this is Mark
Zaid. One thing maybe I would add to check to make sure that, to the extent agencies
are proactively pursuing proactive disclosure, that at the same time, to check as to whether
or not any of them are then using that, I don’t know if “excuse” would be an appropriate
word, but using that as leverage to respond back to requesters and say, you know, “You’ve
asked for these records X, we’ve proactively disclosed — you know, go look on our website
first.” And then, well, either come back to us or don’t come back to us. I remember a number of years ago, NSA routinely
did that for a category of records, particularly UFO records were — they would — they would
always say, “Don’t even bother sending us any request. We have no records, but, you
know, we’ve released everything we have up on our website.” And, now, that’s an
extreme example, and I don’t mean to say that NSA does have records on UFOs, I don’t
know. Clay Johnson: Even though we all know that
they do. Mark S. Zaid: They do, yes. But I mean, (laughter)
I’d hate to think that an agency — and I don’t know that any are doing this, but
then I’m not sure if there’s a way to check. But maybe in a survey, or a poll, or
whatever it is we’d call it. I always forget. What are we calling it? But we’re not allowed
to call them, surveys or polls? Female: Polls. M: They have to be called polls. Mark S. Zaid: Polls. They are polls, OK. So
then if they are pursuing that type of disclosure, they’re not relying solely on that as the
means by which to process a FOIA request, or divert the need to process. Brent Evitt: OK. Thank you very much. This
is Brent again. I appreciate it. Anne Weismann: This is Anne Weisman. I have
another suggestion, which is that if you wanted to look at a discrete agency that I believe
— but may be mistaken — does — routinely does some kind of proactive disclosures to
assess how effective it is. You might take a look at the FDA, because I would call Fred
Sadler telling me, you know, when they knew there was going to be, you know, a product
recall, there was a, you know, problem with spinach or whatever, they knew they were going
to get deluged with FOIA requests. And so they would routinely put out — they tried
to get ahead of it. And so if indeed that continues to be their
practice, it might be a good way to also touch on Dolores’s question or point about, you
know, did it in fact prove to be effective in terms of managing their FOIA? And as I
said, it’s a discrete enough agency that it might be a good example to look at. Nikki Gramian: And I just wanted to also make
a comment about one of the things that Anne, you know, explained, that the category of
records that are interested for FOIA requests are contracts. And I think, in my former position
at DHS, that was something that, you know, DHS really wanted to proactively post on their
website, but they ran into a lot of issues because we had to, you know, reach out to
the company, go through the notice process. And, you know, so on and so forth. But I understand
DOD proactively posts their contracts. Jim Hogan: Some of our components do, yes. Nikki Gramian: And so maybe it’s worth finding
out how it is that they do it. Or is it, like, at the beginning of the contract, that the
contractor is notified that this is going to be on the web? Jim Hogan: What they’ve with some of our
components — I’m trying to remember — it’s actually, I believe, written into the solicitation
that — that’s dif– I don’t remember specifics right now. But either the contractor
will give to them when the contract is awarded, the FOIA release, they said it’s already
released. Or the component says, we’re going to release, like, this information, this information,
this information. And as a condition of working with the government, you have to — because
if you don’t do it upfront, there’s really no way to do it, because you can’t proactively
— let’s say, that’s not done. You have a contract. You can’t proactively release
it, because you have to go through the executive order of 1-2 — or 1-0-6-0 process of doing
the submit– Male: 12600. Jim Hogan: Thank you. Of doing the submitter
notice. We can’t do that unless there’s a FOIA request. So you — all you can really
release proactively is the bottom line number, you know, so many millions of dollars, whatever,
like that. So several components have put it into, again, into the agreement that, as
a condition of doing business with government, certain information will be released proactively.
And it depends on the kind of contracts. You know, you could have anywhere from, you know,
lawn care through missiles. So I think usually, it’s the more simple contracts. It’s a
lot easier to do that. Larry Gottesman: And I can s– Larry Gottesman,
EPA — I can tell you we don’t have the staff to proactively release contracts, because
we get so many. But we do release the contracts when we get a FOIA request for it. And the
good news is, when we release them, we don’t get out the reque– we don’t get out the
requests — Jim Hogan: No, it’s for the same contract.
So people can find them through FOIA online, and we have gotten — rarely do we get a second
request for the same contract. If we do, we call them sand say, “Hey, here’s the link
to it.” And they usually say thank you very much and go home. But we just don’t have
the staff to go through every contract we issue and proactively disclose them. We try
on some occasions, but it’s just — it’s — you just don’t have the staff to do it. Clay Johnson: So what’s the — I mean, that’s
an interesting question. Is that how you’re going to be pushed back for the — any recommendation
that we have around proactive disclosure? Like, what — what is the — the time sink
there for that? Like, what — what is — so, like, what would make it so that you did have
the staff, other than more people, right? Are there processes that could be put in place?
Is it just hard? You know, like, to me, a contract is a document, right? Putting it
online means redacting it, and putting it, Larry Gottesman: Well, the problem is that
executive order. So you need to go back to the submitter for saying, you know, we propose
give it out, give us your comments. I mean, what would help if the far was amended to
say when you get a contract, you need to provide a redacted version, for lack of a better term,
some requirement on the contractor, that goes through the far. Clay Johnson: That’s interesting. Larry Gottesman: I mean, that, to me, would
make the most simple, easiest way of doing it. But short of something like that, it’s
a process of going through, going back to the submitter — Clay Johnson: Do you think that contractors
would just redact their entire contract? (group laughter) That would be what I would — Jim Hogan: Yeah, I would say it would be,
because there’s no — because with the executive order you have a legal process. And if you
don’t have the executive order, if you just say, “Hey, we have a proactive disclosure
request,” the submitter could just say, “No, don’t put anything up there,” and
your hands are tied. Marty Michalosky: This is Marty. I have something
too that is probably — within the next two weeks, we’re going to begin posting contracts
online. And we’ve been working at this for quite a few — quite a few years, I think,
realistically. Because it is complicated. So what we’ve done is we created a transparency
clause in our solicitations. It mirrors the submitter’s notice, and basically, that
requirement out of FOIA, which gives the submitter 10 days from the award of that contract to
submit a redacted contract. Now, we’ve found that pretty much nobody
submits a redacted contract. Even though the language in there specifically says “failure
to submit it condones our discretion to release” whatever. So what we did is we put in a process
to, on the eleventh day, to go back to the contractor and give them one more opportunity
to submit it. And we strengthened our language to affirm that this failure to submit this
does in fact mean that you do not object at all. Now, what we’ve found up until this point
where, you know, now we’re proactively posting them. But what we found up to this point,
by having that in there, and still not proactively posting, but it has significantly helped our
FOIA process because, other than three years ago — I think the last submitter’s notice
we’ve done was probably three years ago. Only because whenever we get a FOIA request,
if we don’t have that contract redacted from the vendor, we go through the contracting
officer. And literally, every single vendor submits that within 24 hours, because we have
that language in there, and we state very clearly that you pretty much have a day to
submit this, because you should have submitted it two years ago. So we’ve done that, we’ve flushed it out.
What we — the challenge we now face is remediating these contracts for 508 compliance. We created
a process, we worked with our 508 program manager, they’ve signed off on our process,
tagging, titling, descripting, naming conventions and contracts because you can’t put everything
in a contract in a naming convention. So how did — you know, we worked through all that,
and we’ve standardized it. But I will tell you that even though we get contracts that
are redacted, we often have to go back and pull the original because they redact the
total awarded amount. Which, you know, that has already been released. So we do do a screen kind of review real quick
to address those issues, remediate through 508. But what we’ve found is even the data
that you get from contractors, is across the board. Some of them are born digital, some
of them are scanned and in poor quality, some of them are scanned in and OCRing fails to
read the image because it’s a TIFF and there’s nothing you could do with it. You know, so even going back to thinking that
it’s very easy, the remediation process is significantly hard, even to make the minimum
requirements under five-oh. So I know we’ve done that. We’re about, like I said, to
post this. So we’ve gone through all that. It’s very complicated, and that’s just
for contracts. We’re looking at other documents, but we wanted to start with contracts because
they seem to be somewhat easier than even some of the other issues that, you know, looking
what Anne had said also, we reviewed the common — I forget what the title of it is. But the
common — Anne Weismann: Data sets. Marty Michalosky: But the common data sets,
and we actually create our transparency plan based on that. That included contracts as
well. So we’re starting with contracts, but we found that even something that’s
essentially, you would think would be very simple, is not. And it’s because there’s
other factors that you have to consider, and it’s not that straightforward. Nate Jones: This is Nate Jones. Can you guys
hear me all right? Male: Yep. Nate Jones: I just want to highlight one other
point that Fred brought up again, and another avenue for process disclosure. That’s the
fact that we all know it takes incredible amount of work to, as Marty just said, find
the document, redact the document, maybe talk to a contractor, get it ready, get it on the
screen. And as Brent said, I just want to highlight that I think it makes a lot of sense
that after you said — press print, put it in an envelope, and send it to the requester
or get the PDF and press send and send it as the email, there should be a way for our
technology to let us also push a button and put it up on the web. Maybe to — for our
journalist friends, a week or some time limit after. But I think that that aspect of process disclosure
is really worth following as well. I know that Release to One, Release to All is
doing this, and lots of other agencies. I’ve already give them lots of kudos for doing
so. But just to have the ability to make it easy to do one more quick, and put a process
FOIA document up on the web so that it doesn’t gather cobwebs. And just the last thing I’ll say is, most
documents take hours, maybe longer, maybe days, maybe years to produce. And it just
doesn’t make sense to not take the one last step to make sure that those resources are
making it so the document’s public facing. Nikki Gramian: Thank you so much, Nate. This
is Nikki. I will say that it isn’t just one click. We are trying to put our own values Nate Jones: I mean, that’s what we should
aspire to. Clay Johnson: Yea, what he’s saying is,
like, we need to drive towards that point, of making it one click, right? Like, in an
ideal world, Microsoft Word would have, like, a button in it, (laughter) right, that says,
like, “Publish to web.” And, you know, or maybe not — you understand what I’m
saying? Like… Nikki Gramian: Yeah. I think one of the things
that we all need to consider is the cost of these new softwares or technologies that many
of the government — Clay Johnson: The cost of the new ones are
cheap. It’s the old ones you keep buying that’s expensive. Do you know Healthcare.gov? Nikki Gramian: That’s a perspective. It’s
a good one. But this is really a good — I’m sorry. David Pritzker: This is David Pritzker. I
would be interested in working with a subcommittee. And the message you’re going to hear from
me in the subcommittee is how these practices and any potential requirements affect small
agencies, maybe very different from the way they affect large agencies. Our little agency
has, altogether, 16 employees. And two of us, who were our general counsel and I, which
is our FOIA staff, were tied in knots a couple of weeks ago by a single request that required
screening a vast number of email messages from personal information. Just a tremendous
amount of time. So this is something that I’d be con– that we’d be concerned about. But I want to speak also about this idea of
published — disclose the more press a button, disclose to all. And I think Delores kind
of hinted at what I’m going to say now, before. But just because you press the button
and something — well, let’s just take my example of the email messages on a certain
topic. Well, suppose we posted that to the web. Where? How does anybody who might be
interested in that subject find that information here?” Do you put it under FOIA disclosures?
Do you put it under particular subject matter? I mean, where does it go? Particularly for
a larger agency with a complex set of websites. How does anybody who might be interested in
it know it’s there? Clay Johnson: I know that’s the intent of
Data.gov? David Pritzker: Well, I don’t know how successful
that is, but these are concerns that agencies large and small might have. And my guess is,
I’m hearing Delores’s comments about perhaps not reducing workload is simply because anybody
who might be interested in these things don’t know where to look for them. Sean Moulton: This is Sean Moulton. I think
you raise a good point. But I think it’s a solvable point. There are principles and
data standards that you can put information out there. I think the most important thing
is to make sure that, when the data gets put out, whether it’s in a FOIA library, or
under a subject matter library or website, that it’s being indexed, and found by the
major search engines, the commercial search engines. And there have been agencies that
have had difficulties with that, because they actually close off the search engines from
certain aspects of the websites. And most people, if they go to Google or some other
search engine and do a search, and can’t find very quickly the information they’re
looking for, they assume it’s not there. And I think that’s going to be a critical
element to really allowing people to find the information. And these are professionals who, they’re
working day and night. They have hundreds of people trying to figure out how to find
and organize the results of searches. And so I would say the government should try and
duplicate that, or spend an enormous amount of time or resources in figuring out where
to post it and how to post it. But just again, post it and make it accessible to the searching
professionals. I think that’s a big step. Anne Weismann: This is Anne Weismann again.
I mean, I think, Brent, what’s clear is that your committee has a lot of work. But
I think a critical aspect — which you did mention up front — is the technology piece.
Both in terms of, you know, how it can help, but also I guess I want to respond a little
bit to Nikki’s comment. I feel that, all too often, generally with FOIA as a requester,
we’re told, you know, we just don’t have the resources, we don’t have the technology.
And I think it may be sort of a canard, or whatever the word is. It’s not necessarily
accurate that, you know, yes, if you make this investment upfront, it really might be
cost-saving in the long run. And I don’t know how you tackle that issue, but I feel
like in many ways, it’s pretty critical, because I think that’s what stops so many
agencies from going forward, and kind of what they tell Congress, then Congress says, “Oh,
well, OK.” So somehow there needs to be a way to break
the logjam of we don’t have money for technology, it costs too much, when, as Clay points out,
I mean, the new technology is cheaper than what you have. And if it does what it’s
supposed to do, you may not see cost savings up front right away. But over time — again,
I’m throwing this out there. I don’t know how you get your arms around that, but I think
it’s an important piece of the equation. Brent Evitt: OK. This is Brent again. I appreciate
all these comments. They’re very helpful. Marty Michalosky: Just three very brief points,
kind of to [make some things?] connected to this. First is I think that GSA 18F group
is looking at some of the things that Clay and others brought up about how do you find,
how do you categorize, how do you successfully search, you know, over 100 agencies that do
FOIA, or more than do proactive disclosures? So it may be good to connect with that group,
because I know that I talked to him quite a few times, and I know they’re working
on some of those challenges, and maybe I wouldn’t have combined efforts there. Number two, I think communication is important,
continuous improvement. So as I’ve pointed out, we’ve faced a lot of challenges with
our contracts, or other documents, for that matter. And what we’re doing is we’re
going to be putting — providing guidance to contractors that work with us on submitting
documents from the beginning that are OCR, that meet the image quality that the national archives, accepts as federal records, as well as other things. And I know that there is
some 508 language in the far, I believe. I can’t cite it because I haven’t looked
at it recently. But, you know, we’re going to provide guidance, so that whenever we do
get those records — and we’re asking minimum — you know, this is really the minimum. OCRing
through Adobe doesn’t take a lot, or saving at a certain PI your skin anyway. You know,
save at a higher resolution so we can work with it easier, and it makes better. So I think communication with whomever that
you’re dealing with, with records, and then be able to straight to the point whenever
you get it, it should be of a certain quality and a certain — certain level so you can
work with it. But, and my third thing is, is you can add
me to the list. I’ll work with the (inaudible). (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) Clay Johnson: — you now have the entire committee.
(overlapping dialogue; inaudible) Female: Well done, Brent. Maggie Mulvihill: Hi, can I just jump in?
I’m so sorry I’m late. I’m Maggie Mulvihill, Boston University. I teach data journalism,
and I was delayed coming in from Boston, so I apologize. Can you hear me? But two things that I just wanted to jump
in on. The notion that information wouldn’t be easily accessible isn’t — I don’t
really see why that is even a factor, because, you know, we train at least our journalists
and really good researchers to go as deep and as granular, and as precise as they can.
And where I think most requesters aren’t used to not having things easily accessible.
That’s what records retention schedules are for. And, you know, minutes of meetings,
and some — and a footnote in a GAO report. I mean, we can always find the information.
I don’t see that that’s really a factor. And should we put it up or not? And then secondly, just with all the innovation
that’s going on with technology and data. I don’t know if there’s ever been consideration
of any of the agencies, (inaudible) all that off to either work with a tech company or
a university, a pilot program. I mean, Clay mentioned with Microsoft, put, like, a Pinterest
button on document, how sweet would that be? (laughter) And it just seems like people are clawing
to innovate. You know, every single day, you see a new data analytics company and tech
company. But they would — I shouldn’t say “bend,” but it would be interesting to
know if they might be willing to do a cloud project within the agency, or an experimental
project about that very idea. So I just wanted to put that on the record. Nikki Gramian: Thank you. You know, talking
about proactive disclosure. I also would like to say that Department of Justice is spearheading
a pilot project on proactive disclosure that you touched upon. And we have someone from
DOJ, and also our own parent agency that can provide a brief summary of this project. If
I may ask Bobby Talebian to please come up to the microphone. Christa Lemelin: Come on down! Price is Right
reference? Anyone? Clay Johnson: No, I got the joke. Christa Lemelin: I guess (inaudible). (laughter) Bobby Talebian: Morning. How is everyone?
Glad to be here today to talk about the — our proactive disclosure pilot program. Many of
the agencies — so we’re having a pilot program to test the Release to One, Release
to All policy consideration. We have many of the agencies that are in the pilot, seven
agencies all together. I brought a table here. So as you can see, real leaders in FOIA. But
the idea of this comes from, you know, we’ve had — especially in the Department of Justice,
(inaudible) especially have had a real emphasis on practical disclosure since 2009. Attorney
General’s FOIA guidelines encourage agencies to systematically and promptly post informa–
or make information available in advance of a FOIA request. We’ve had many workshops,
and agencies have been — have been reporting on their efforts in practical disclosures
in their Chief FOIA Officers reports. So we want to take this to the next level
here, and test the idea of posting records that have been released as part of a FOIA
request after one request has been made to the public, so that the release is not just
something for the individual, but to the public at large. Of course, with the exception of
first part requests. And the idea of the pilot is a six-month pilot with participating agencies
to see how it goes, and gather metrics, and really look at many of the questions that
were raised here with the committee to kind of understand better the challenges. We’ve heard a lot of challenges, and there
are legitimate challenges with being able to post information more and more online,
both as far as technology and time resources, and there’s many benefits that have been
discussed, and we want to be able to gauge all of that and have an informed decision
at the end of the six-month pilot. And we plan to make the results public. And in the
meantime, I encourage everyone here — we encourage everyone in the public and agencies
to follow our progress, and to let us know if there’s any feedback. We’ve set up
a specific email address, [email protected] But feel free to contact OIP in any way you
like and let us know what you think, feedback, what you’re seeing, your concerns, as we
continue with the pilot. Oh. Thank you. So I should get the email address
right: [email protected] Nikki Gramian: Thank you, Bobby. Thank you
so much. Bobby Talebian: Thank you. Nikki Gramian: Thank you so much. So this
is the wrap-up for the public comments. We could take a short break if you want, or we
could just continue. Everybody wants to continue? MALE: Yeah. This is Dave Bahr, and I just wanted to comment about the proactive disclosure that — regarding the issue of how do people know what’s being proactively disclosed? It occurs to me that any time I’ve gone
to an agency reading room, or the few times that I deemed to use the FOIA request portal,
I have never seen any indication, any speed bump that says, “Wait, the FOIA file employ
request. Have you checked what we’ve already put on the internet, you know, proactively?”
And, you know, people have been talking about making sure these things are indexed for search
engines and all those things, which is — which is a great idea, and I don’t disagree at
all. But it would seem like a miniscule expenditure
of time and effort, to make sure that anytime anybody clicks into an agency FOIA portal,
there’s some indication that there may be what they’re looking for, already posted
and waiting for them on the internet, without having the hassle of the FOIA request. Sean Moulton: So this is — I — this is Sean
Moulton. I think that’s an excellent point. I can say that I’m not sure which agencies
you’ve been looking at, but I can say I have seen that on several agencies’ websites,
where they encourage people on the FOIA site. When you come to it, they greatly encourage
you to look through the reading room, as well as search the site to make sure that the information’s
not already there. When I was at the Center for Effective Government,
we did a review of some of the top agencies for the handle FOIA request. And for — and
one of the aspects we looked at were websites. And that was one of the features we looked
at for present — being present on the website. And a number of them had it. I certainly think
it’s the right thing to do, and it’s one of the reasons we graded based on that. So
not everyone’s doing it, but I can say that some agencies are doing it. It’s probably
becoming more standard as we move on. Nikki Gramian: All right. Anyone else? Any
comments? No? Thank you Dave, and thank you Sean. All right. So now we’ll turn to everyone else in the room. Thanks to all of the folks who are in this room, and — for joining us.
We’re eager to hear from you all, and we’ll take your comments and questions for the next
20 minutes. Please, if you would come to the microphone. Linda Ferguson: Thank you for taking my comment
today. My name is Linda Ferguson, I’m representing myself. And I just wanted to kind of add on
to — give, add on a comment to Mr. David’s — I didn’t get your last name, I’m sorry,
but you had said about the information, and how would you find it? And the last gentleman
was talking about it in the reading room. And that’s great, but I think it needs to
be more subject to, like, the metadata. It has to be linked to the metadata. And the
bad thing about that is that is subject to whoever is putting the data up there. So we
kind of have to all be on the same page as to what we’re putting up there, and how
it’s relating the different index and what it’s producing. And that’s all. Thank
you. Nikki Gramian: Thank you. Anyone else? Christa Lemelin: Can I just respond that (inaudible)
committee. Nikki Gramian: Sure. Christa Lemelin: So at the Office of Government
Information Services, we have our website, www.ogis.archives.gov. We’ve been actively
working to promote copies with [PIA?] (inaudible) of our final (inaudible) customer. So we’ve
gotten very — [Iggy?] and I have been very intimately familiar with the 508 process,
and remediating them. And I mean, it’s — I mean, that’s exactly the point. You can
put that metadata in there, and that, in some ways, is one of the time consuming things,
because you need to tag the document as English. You need to put in a [title pool?]. You know,
if you’re being 508 compliant, you need to do all this, which we’re doing. So all
these tags in there. And, I mean, it’s great, because sometimes I Google search things.
And it’s like, oh my God, this letter that I posted is my first Google hit, because I
tagged it, and I put the metadata in there that made me get that hit. Clay, you were talking about resource issues
and tools. I mean, we’re just using Adobe Acrobat, (inaudible), which is awful, because
in my experience, it’s like, the documentation for it doesn’t even match the product itself.
So that’s a challenge that agencies face if the companies aren’t even (inaudible). But I think a part of the issue is, you know — — you know, one request, one release. I think
you’re working on a very small [level?], and when we’re remediating these documents,
it’s one at a time. I don’t have these special, fancy software to help me metadata
tag it with, like — in one shot. And, I mean, maybe it’s out there, and if you have it,
please let me know. It will make my life easier. But, you know, I wish — I mean, I wish the
agents — industries, that I wish the companies — you’re right, I think they, I mean, should
be part of the conversation. Last December, I went to a really great conference
on government information, and making it accessible. So I mean, I think it’d be nice if we could
bring more people into this conversation. Not just the tech geeks, but, I mean, companies,
people who are, you know, part of the community and actively working on these issues. Because,
I mean, we’re not — we’re making this information, we want it to be available to
all citizens, not just the, you know, people like us. We want it to be available to everyone.
So, and those of you who said you would join Brent in his efforts, please do that. And
we had our first meeting in June of 2014, and you as a group decided that proactive
disclosures is an important topic, and it’s one that you would like to tackle. The second,
too, I discovered a national action plan, actually specifically mentions that we need
to work on more at modernization, and proactive disclosure. So please join Brent, please be
part of the conversation. And yeah. Nikki Gramian: (laughter) Thank you. Thank
you, Christa. And I think one thing I would add is I had also attended a meeting, and
a gentleman got up and said, why — why would the FOIA units, you know, would have to go
through this technology issue when it’s only a handful of other folks that would want the information 508 compliant? And the response was this is the law. And, you know, true majority of folks really can take advantage of the fact that information is on the web, and it’s
only a handful that really need to have that information, you know, 508 compliant. And
the person who started talking said that it would probably best for the agency, you know,
if a person wants something 508 compliant, then to ask for that particular document to
be 508 compliant. This way, many other, you know, information is all already on the web.
And then the majority of people are able to use it, rather than just, you know, having
this issue that, hey, we can’t put anything on the web because of 508 compliant. And that
is something that I heard, and I’m just throwing it out there. This is what some folks [believe?]. Well, thank you so much. Anyone else in the — yes. Michael Rhodes: Hi. I’m Michael Rhodes?.
I’m also speaking for myself. Just a general comment. Admittedly — this is the first I’ve
heard the discussion about proactive disclosure, and that term. Overall, what my — my response
to — my reaction to it is, are we not redefining what FOIA is, what the original purpose of
FOIA was, to get after certain information? Like, for instance, COINTELPRO, there was
a lot of interest in those — in that topic, so it was expected that resources — limited
resources (inaudible) would be focusing on that, because that was a public demand. So as the example is brought up of, like, visitor logs and other routine information, well,
that’s fine and well, but couldn’t an excuse be made by agencies, “Well, we can’t
get to that request, because you want this routine information.” So I’d be very interested — perhaps there’s
a survey. Is that what the public wants? Do they want routine information, or do they
want certain information? Which I think the original purpose of the Freedom of Information Act was. Thank you. Christa Lemelin: I think they want everything. (laughter) Sean Moulton: Well, I can just say that I
think Clay mentioned it earlier. You know, very often, circumstances changed. And suddenly,
what was routine information, now you want it, and you want it now. You know, and the
calendars of key officials, when questions arise over, you know, either policy decision
or contract that was given to someone. Everyone wants to know who met with who and when. Was
it before or after the contract? And the idea would be, if we can proactively
disclose this. And hopefully, by building it in, as I think Marty was talking about
but with their contracts, when you start to build it in from the creation of the document,
the resource issue really becomes smaller, and hopefully doesn’t even impact the FOIA
process. You’re building in the disclosure to people who are creating the records. You
know, the procurement officers, in terms of contracts, were the people holding calendars
in terms of, you know, the schedulers. And so it never gets to the FOIA officers. And
the FOIA people, hopefully it doesn’t — it doesn’t interfere with oh, we’ve got to
go do this other thing, so we’re not processing requests. That would be the ideal from my
perspective. I’m not sure if I said, but this is Sean Moulton. Christa Lemelin: This is a recording. Nikki Gramian: Thank you so much, Sean. OK. I guess this is going to be our closing remarks now. Nikki Gramian: Oh, sure. Christa Lemelin: Bobby, I have a question
for you. And I don’t know if you have an answer, but what kind of metrics or — I mean,
can you tell us a little bit more about how — like, kind of ongoing efforts of the project?
And, you know, in terms of information or data that they [use these?] (inaudible). Bobby Talebian: Yeah, absolutely. So we’re
working on metrics — we’re working on metrics right now as we speak. And we’re really
trying to answer just a number of different questions, including some of the challenges
that people have talked about, 508 being one of them, time divergence from FOIA staff not
working on FOIA request, and working on posting. Also some of the successes, you know? How
many records get posted? So we’re trying to get all that very down, that the pilot
was announced but the actual, effective launch where agency will start working on posting
records that (inaudible) will be in August. So in these next couple weeks, we’ve been
working with data experts in the government and trying to fine tune, make sure that we
have the right metrics, and we present it in the best way to get the best results. And
of course, then we will make those results publicly available. Christa Lemelin: So there’s still plenty
of time (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) Bobby Talebian: Absolutely. And before the
August kickoff and all throughout the — on the metric [change?] part of it, we welcome
any kind of feedback. Christa Lemelin: I mean, it’s not a metric,
but are you capturing information [about software?] and what not people are using? Because as
we keep hearing, you know, every agency is a unique snowflake. It’s all different,
they all have different resources. So, I mean, are you capturing information on — Bobby Talebian: So yeah, absolutely. We’re
going to be capturing all the uniqueness of each agency. And I think one of the great
parts of the pilot is that we have a good handful of diverse agencies, both in the types
of records and missions they have, and also their sizes. So we’ll get a good I think,
grasp on the different types of methods and things the agencies are doing to post records
online, and the impact that has on their programs, and the pilot itself. Christa Lemelin: Great. Thank you, Bobby. Bobby Talebian: Excellent. Mark S. Zaid: This is Mark Zaid. I’ve come
to the conclusion that life is going by too fast, and we’ve been here for a year now.
And next year is the fiftieth anniversary of the enactment of FOIA. And I wanted to
raise, either for some discussion own or perhaps that we discuss it as the committee via email
for presentation at the next meeting in October, what are we doing next year? We talked about,
when we first got together, that we were going to put out some sort of report. And I presume,
probably with most of you, that’s still a thought in your mind. But since we’ve already gone a year, I suspect
another year will go by really quickly, and I’ll be sitting here again saying, my God,
life is going by way too fast, and I don’t have enough time to do everything that we’re
supposed to be doing. So I think we probably need to start thinking about a schedule for
— schedule for and about what we are going to try and schedule for in this next year.
How do we want some final report to look, as well as what we discussed at our last meeting
about extending the life of this advisory committee, which doesn’t seem, from what
I recall and see in the minutes from NARA’s general counsel. And David, you weighed in
on it too, to be much of an issue, or a problem, that we can extend our life. So if we’re going to do that, when do we
want to actually do that? I don’t know what the process actually is as far as who puts
in the request, and who approves that. But how will that impact whatever we’re going
to do as a — whether it’s called a final report, an interim report, whatever it’s
going to be. But, you know, since we’ve gone so far in already halfway, we probably
need to have some thoughts and discussions about how we want this to look, and when we
want it to be issued. Christa Lemelin: And to initially respond
to what you’re saying, is the Archivist, and now a senior management, they are aware
that you as a committee have expressed a desire in continuing in the terms of our charter.
You know, it’s two years that can be renewed. We are, of course, not a committee just for
the sake of having a committee. I know it’s cool, but we want to get things done, and
we’re serious about getting things done, and we show — the archivist chose you to
be on this committee because he thinks you’re serious about (inaudible) and FOIA, and proving
to the administration from the executive branch. And I would expect that he’d want to see
results, because, you know, it’s a lot of work for you all to meet, to be here, to work
on your subcommittees. And it’s a lot of work for us as an office. So I think we need
some results, and I think the report, recommendation, whatever you want to do, that’s great, but
I think we need a tangible product of some sort. And by we, I’m speaking for the archivist,
maybe. Well, probably not. I’m not paid that much. But… (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) Anne Weismann: This is Anne Weisman. I certainly
echo Mark’s sentiment. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we’re more than halfway
in, and we really do what to produce a product. Christa, I think you’re the appropriate
person, since you’ve got all the subcommittee meetings, and know where people are at, to
really keep us, you know, on track, and to work with the subcommittees to set dates for
completion. I mean, I don’t think it’s anything we could do here collectively today.
I certainly think by the next advisory committee meeting, we should be, you know, each committee
should be in a position to talk about deliverables and when, and then we should talk about what
the committee as a whole, whether we’re, you know, producing separate products or whatever
it is. But I think in the interim, Christa, it really does fall to you as the person who’s
in contact with all the different subcommittees to make sure that they set internal dates
and make sure we keep them. Christa Lemelin: I’ll try to do that, but
that means I need people to be responsive. Anne Weismann: Of course, but we’re not
going to do anything. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) But my point is — Christa Lemelin: (inaudible) Anne Weismann: No, but Christa, my point is
simply that I don’t think there’s any one member of this committee who can do it,
and I don’t think as a whole. Because you’re the one that’s really coordinating the various
activities. That’s all I’m asking, is that you just need to ask for different subcommittees,
to make sure [to set any dates we’re meeting?]. Christa Lemelin: I’m happy to do that. Mark S. Zaid: This is Mark Zaid. You know,
as I’m thinking about it, again, we have to decide what we want to issue as a committee,
rather — you know, if it’s the individual subcommittee reports, and it’s just packaged
into something, or we actually do something that, as a committee, we all vote on, agree
on, however it goes. So maybe we need a — unfortunately, maybe we need another subcommittee that the
[full purpose is on?] whatever the final product’s going to be, because it may be difficult to
herd too many cats on this committee to figure out what it’s going to be. And at the same
time, Christa’s doing a great job on email corralling us. But, you know, she’s not
paid enough to — we could maybe get you a raise, we can ask. We can put that as a recommendation. MALE: (inaudible) recommendation. Mark S. Zaid: But — Female: [And your work is done?]. Mark S. Zaid: But, you know, if — especially
if we’re going to issue a report as a committee [whole?], someone’s going to have to draft
it. Hopefully not me, but someone’s going to have to draft it, and we’re going to
have to figure out who that’s — who those people will be to take the initiative on it.
So that’s why I suggest maybe we need to have somebody serve on a committee to decide
that. However, I don’t care. We can call it a committee, or a draft, or a drafting
committee, or whatever. Anne Weismann: I just don’t want to get
ahead of ourselves. I mean, I don’t know if a report’s the answer. Is it a series
of recommendations? I think that, you know, I include proposed legislation. I mean, there’s
any — Mark S. Zaid: The committee could decide that
too. I don’t know. Anne Weismann: But I guess what I’m suggesting
is by our next committee meeting as a whole, we should be prepared to make those kinds
of decisions based on the work that the subcommittees are doing, and what we expect their products
to be. And I think we don’t set these deadlines [too much?]. Larry Gottesman: Just, I mean, we’ve had
a great discussion today, but we keep moving the target. We keep expanding. You know, we’re
doing more polls and more — I mean, you’re right, we need to sort of say, here’s where
we’re going to go, here’s what we’re going to report, and maybe the next committee
can take it beyond. Because if we keep having that moving target, we’re never going to
get there. So we need to sort of say, here’s what we’re looking to do, here are the recommendations. And then, you know, come up with either recommendations or a report, or some way of closing up this
process. Nikki Gramian: And I think one thing I will
add is now, with the appointments of our new director, who’s going to be the chair of
this committee, you know, obviously for our next meeting, you know, that’s something
that he will also weigh in when Christa sends these emails. You know, he also will be able
to sort of chime in and, you know, request stuff, and so on and so forth. Delores Barber: New director? Nikki Gramian: Yes. Larry Gottesman: You’re losing (inaudible). Christa Lemelin: Oh, you missed it. Delores Barber: Who might that be? (laughter) Male: It’s you, actually. Larry Gottesman: You. (laughter) F: Surprise! M: Congratulations. Delores Barber: It’s a boy! (laughter) And
we’re very proud of it. Maggie Mulvihill: Mark, can you — or anyone
— what is the most effective thing to do? Is there to be recommendations for legislation
in the press release? You know, pivoting off the fiftieth anniversary? What has the most
power, do you think? Mark S. Zaid: Yea. So this is Mark. I mean,
I think it’s ironic, because it was — I don’t think it was a plan that our two years
would conclude with the fiftieth anniversary. Not that I know of. And I certainly would
imagine, especially when Christa is mentioning and reminding us that the archivist expects
some tangible product, that, you know, we would have something that would be issued,
and I’d love to see NARA issue a press release about it, that, you know, this is — whatever
stage we’re at, even if we have reengaged to continue our lifespan beyond the two years, to whatever period of time. But I do think, however we’re going to do
that, and whatever format we’re going to have to figure out — we need to figure it
out by the next committee meeting. And I don’t think we’re going to figure this out right
now as we conclude, so we’re going to have to have some sort of dialogue internally,
through emails or however else we’re doing it, or maybe — I don’t know, we’re probably
too much of a difficulty to have a conference call, because then that does open records
issues, or whatever the open meetings issues. But at least to have that conversation and
start figuring out, you know, what do we want to do and when? Because, you know, like I
said, you know, this next year is going to just come right out. And the year is, of course,
where we would issue whatever it is. That means everything has to be done before that.
So realistically, we’re talking, you know, months that we have to start pulling this
together. Maggie Mulvihill: And it would be a wasted
opportunity to miss that news hook of that anniversary. That really would be a wasted
opportunity. Mark S. Zaid: Yeah. I mean, I’ve already
started to think. I had — it even just dawned on me that the fiftieth anniversary was going
to be this morning. You know, a year from now is looking it up online in July or September,
depending on which websites you look at. So I don’t know exactly the exact date. Clay Johnson: September. Mark S. Zaid: Is it September? Clay Johnson: For the purposes of this committee,
it should be. Mark S. Zaid: OK. And (laughter) you know,
I’m sure those of us in the private sector in particular are going to have quite a number
of conferences that will hold next year, and hopefully maybe the government will as well,
and maybe combined together. So it’s going to be a great opportunity to really have a
dialogue about where we are, 50 years later. Anne Weismann: Yeah, but I want to pick up
on your question, Maggie, because I guess my personal view is I would urge this committee
to look way beyond a report. And if all we produce is a report, it’s just going to
be tossed on the pile, and that’ll be that. And I think if we really want to fulfill our
mission, we have to stretch much further than that. Maggie Mulvihill: Hi, it’s Maggie again.
I was just thinking, when there have been such councils or committees like this before,
to change [prior legislation to strengthen?], what has worked? What has worked? Does anybody
have any — or can we study that? Or has anything worked? Well, I don’t — I think that’s a fair question, but keep in mind, we turn over our product to the archivist.
It’s really up to him. At the end of the day, we have no power beyond recommendation.
So if we give him specific and concrete enough things, and we explain the rationale and we
can make the case that, you know, they’re well based and they would work, you know,
maybe we’d have a shot. But at the end of the day, what works depends on the agency that chartered the committee in the first place. And Mark, I want to respond to something that you brought up earlier, the idea of, you know, kind of convening a
group of us to talk about this issue. I mean, under the provisions of (inaudible), we can
have an administrative meeting that’s not, you know, an open, public meeting, but (inaudible)
want to meet and talk about it, that’s certainly OK under the provisions of the FACA. OGIS,
we’re happy to host, or whatever. (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) Anne Weismann: That’s a great idea. Christa Lemelin: So I think let’s taking
about maybe in the next few weeks doing that. Female: That’s a great idea. Cindy Cafaro: I might suggest that you speak
to your legal counsel of course before you make that particular decision. Administrative
meetings are typically under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Things more like receiving
training by the committee. These types of decisions would be — it would be a very interesting
discussion. So I would certainly urge you, if you’re seeking to avoid challenge. And
there’s always someone who wants to challenge something, to be very cognizant of the Federal
Advisory Committee Meeting and product requirements. My name is Cindy Cafaro, I am — speak on
my own behalf, but from the Department of the Interior. Christa Lemelin: To some of our (inaudible),
members of our general council, (inaudible) to it, one way (inaudible). Well, [we can
do it?]. Thank you, Cindy, and thank you, Jean [Whyte]. We’ll look into it, and follow
up with you all. David Pritzker: This is David Pritzker again.
I want to address two of the comments that people have made in the last few minutes.
First, on the recommendations (inaudible) reports or recommendations with reports, my agency’s principle product are recommendations backed up by research reports, and some of
them get a lot of attention. I’m talking about the recommendations now. Some of them
get a lot of attention in certain interested quarters, and are largely or sometimes fully
implemented. Some of them get no attention whatsoever. It seems to me from our experience
that the main lessons from this are to get the people who are in a position to do something
about them interested, and informed in advance of what you’re doing. In the case of FOIA,
it seems to me, (inaudible) aimed toward recommendations on legislation. There were obvious people
to be in contact with in an informal way to let them know what we’re up to. But ultimately,
I think the combination of kind of greasing the skids along those lines together with
an influential person — in this case, obviously the archivist, maybe the attorney general,
maybe the Office of Information Policy, maybe the new head of OGIS — but these are — these
are the people who can help carry our message. And it’s a combination of those roots that
will make whatever we have say most likely to gain attention. I’d leave it to Maggie
and others to consider how to get the press interested (laughter) The other thing I want to talk about is this matter of how we can converse with one another within the bounds of the relevant law in between
meetings of the full committee. And as Nikki pointed out at the beginning, the current
rules for subcommittees are that they’re not formally required to do everything that
the full committee is, by way of public notice and public involvement. Provided, as she properly said, everything that the subcommittees do is simply reported back for decision making by the full committee. But that doesn’t address the question of what the full committee
can do in these three-month intervals. It so happens that one of our recommendations
— the Administrative Conference of the US — one of our recommendations three or four years ago was on the subject of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. And we proposed at
that time a procedure that we referred to as asynchronous online meetings. And our recommendation does — does spell out ways to do this within the bounds of the Federal Advisory Committee act. And just to give you the flavor of what I’m talking about, it was essentially calling
a meeting that was properly noticed in the federal register, but explained to the public, it will be open to the public to — to observe, maybe to participate. We have some flexibility
on that. But basically, do everything online on a publicly reachable website. So there are ways to do this if we want to
do that. We risk complaints about our mode of operation if all we do is exchange group emails with one another and try to reach decisions that way. That would run afoul of the Advisory Committee Act. But what I’ve described as these asynchronous electronic public meetings, if you did it carefully, would not. Christa Lemelin: Maybe one of our recommendations can be (inaudible) updated. David Pritzker: Well, that was our recommendation.
(laughter) Actually, we didn’t recommend the FACA be updated, but rather to recognize that what I tried to summarize would be permissible within the current FACA. Larry Gottesman: And — this is Larry Gottesman.
I listened to everyone, you know, and I think legislative enhancements corrections are great.
But for those of us that have been around FOIA for a while, they’re hard to make happen. There may be ways to make recommendations that are administratively ways to fix things without having to go through a legislative process. So we may look at both administrative
corrections as well as legislative fixes, because — or enhancements, I guess is a better
word than fixes. Because not a whole lot’s passing the Hill right now. David Pritzker: Larry — this is David again.
Larry, I appreciate that comment. I did not mean to imply what I said before that we should
be aiming particularly for legislation. I agree entirely with what you’ve just said,
and the perfect example — at least in my world, is the Administrative Conference’s
recommendations on alternative dispute resolution and OGIS, and other things that I’ve spoken about at prior meetings, was largely addressed to the agencies, and saying, here are the
things that you can and should do for improved functioning under FOIA, and in particular,
some of the recommendation addressed better use of FOIA public liaisons. So that certainly
is an appropriate (inaudible). Larry Gottesman: And David, I wasn’t focusing,
but we — earlier we were talking about, you know, legislative recommendations, and I’m
just saying that they’re great to have, but I think we need to have more than that.
Because if all we’re all we’re coming up with a bunch of legislative recommendations,
have we really — David Pritzker: I’m agreeing with you. Larry Gottesman: OK. I’m sorry. Well I think it’s fair to say we have a range of opinions, but I also think it’s fair to say we have a lot to talk about on this. So however you do it, I think we do need to facilitate a further
discussion that’s focused on this issue, and we should do it in the very short term. Mark S. Zaid: This is Mark Zaid. But I do
want to make a distinction as far as — I’m not even discussing, at this stage, the substance
that we’re going to put in. We’ve got to figure out the timing, and the resources
as to who’s going to be involved doing what. And I’m not as concerned about that, with
the public being involved with the internal — I do see that as more internal administrative
workings. And then the substance is obviously incredibly important, but the substance is
almost irrelevant if we can’t figure out when we’re going to do it and who’s going
to do it. Nikki Gramian: I will say that the archivist
is very, very interested in this advisory committee, and he’s wholeheartedly supporting this committee. So it’s — it’s his priority to know what’s happening, and, you know,
he is very much involved and interested. All right. Is that it? People on the phone? Male: Thank you very much. Male: Thank you very much. All right. Great. OK. So as you all have heard, this committee has already been very active in efforts to improve FOIA, with the efforts of the three subcommittees that are underway. As briefly discussed previously by our subcommittee co-chairs, the FOIA public liaison and fee surveys are open until tomorrow. If you’re a federal FOIA professional and have not done so already, please, we encourage you that you go on the web and please weigh in and do your survey. At our next meeting, we look forward to hearing more about the survey results and the updates of our analysis of the — that the subcommittees have done. We invite you to visit the website for more
information about our activities and how we — how you can participate. And one final thing to note, that everyone in this room will go on — will undergo the National Archive’s exit screening procedures to leave the building. For security purposes, all individuals’ bags are checked to ensure that no Archives holdings are removed from the building. And thank you all for coming. We will see
you at our next meeting in October with our new director. [applause] Please stand adjourned. [post meeting chatter]

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