Friday, May 01, 2015

How credible is the 2014 Annual DOJ FOIA Report? Figures don’t lie – Liars Figure

Posted By CotoBlogzz

Rancho Santa Margartia, CA -  Each year, federal departments and agencies are required by law to submit a report to the Attorney General detailing various statistics regarding their agency’s FOIA activities, such as the numbers of requests processed and received, and the time taken to process them.  These Annual FOIA Reports, one-hundred in total for FY 2014, are compiled by Office of Information Policy ( OIP

In order to provide agency personnel and the public with a comprehensive picture of the government’s FOIA activities during the fiscal year, OIP routinely creates a summary of the information contained within agency Annual FOIA Reports.  As in previous years, the summary looks at government-wide data for many key statistics in FOIA administration and highlights significant numbers reported by individual agencies.  Additionally, the summary identifies trends in FOIA processing by comparing the FY 2014 Annual FOIA Report data with data from prior fiscal years.
As described in this year’s summary, during FY 2014, agency FOIA Offices did an outstanding job given the constraints.  The  question is, how credible are the statistics?  For example, Dr. Skye McDougall, acting director of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles told Congress that an average wait time for vets is four days.  However, CNN reported that the actual wait time is measured in months.  Let’s not rehash Lois Lerner or even Hilary Clintons disappearing emails.
The summary actually states that the FOIA Offices “received a record high 714,231 requests while also facing several other challenges including reduced staffing, tough fiscal times, and a three week government shutdown during which requests continued to come in when there was no staff available to process them.”  Seriously?  Are you blaming government shutdowns for lack of staff at a time when for example, according to the Treasury Inspector General for the Tax Administration’s report , as of October 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012 more than 2,800 IRS employees with recent bad conduct, including not paying income taxes, received more than $2.8 million in cash awards, more than 27,000 hours in time-off awards and 175 quality step increases in their IRS employment.  This included more than 1,100 IRS employees with Federal Tax compliance problems, received more than $1 million in cash, more than 10,000 hours in time-off and 69 quality step increases within a year after their problem was identified.  The report  goes on to say that these issues are not isolated, but systemic.
Then there is the disposition of requests

All requests processed by an agency fall into two overarching categories: 1) Requests that are closed after being substantively processed with decisions made to release or withhold information based upon the FOIA’s exemptions, and 2) Requests that are closed for administrative or procedural reasons, such as when no records are located or when all the responsive records are referred to another agency for handling. Operative terms here are Substantively in item one above and procedure reasons in item 2.  Hilary Clinton’s lost emails could easily fall in item 2, as well as Lois Lerner’s and perhaps even Fast and Furious and Benghazi.  Under these conditions, in 15% of the cases, the agencies did not find any records. 6% were flat out denied and 32% were partially processed.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based journalist advocacy organization, on November of 2013 released  its first comprehensive look at press freedom in the United States: “The Obama Administration and the Press: Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America.” and concluded that the Obama Administration Has Gone To Unprecedented Lengths to Thwart Journalism

At the state level, an FOIA request to the California Law Revision Commission was substantially not response, because the agency mysteriously lost documents for a six month period we were interested in – surly that agency reported the incident as responsive.

At the County level, a FOIA  filed with the Superior Court went unresponsive “because it did not have the resources”

 Being ardent believers in the old adage that you cannot manage what you cannot measure, we find the DOJ summary and its backup figures highly suspect and mostly filed under the “figures don’t lie, liars figure,” particularly under and Obama, Eric Holder Administration.

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