OTG, openness groups, urge FOIA Ombudsman to revise strict confidentiality requirements

Today, OTG and 11 endorsing organizations provided comments to the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) on its proposed rule on the implementing guidance and procedures for OGIS’s FOIA dispute resolution services. The recommendations provided in the comments are intended to ensure the OGIS regulations uphold requesters’ rights under the FOIA statute, and do not place restrictive confidentiality requirements on requesters who chose to use OGIS’s mediation and dispute resolution services.

The proposed requirements, it is noted, could severely undercut the role of OGIS in providing expertise on FOIA issues for other agencies, lawyers, and judges, as well as the public. The broad confidentiality requirements also would limit access to other requesters dealing with the same agency and take away the ability of the public and Congress to monitor agency FOIA practices.

The undersigned organizations appreciate the efforts by OGIS to issue regulations explaining OGIS’s statutory role in the FOIA process and setting out procedures for one of OGIS’s primary functions – assisting agencies and FOIA requesters with efforts to resolve FOIA disputes. We also note that these proposed regulations only cover General Information and Dispute Resolution Services, and we look forward to the development of regulations covering the other significant OGIS functions that are congressionally-directed and integral to the role of the Office.

Read the comments here.