Within weeks after documents released by the DHS to the Associated Press revealed that FOIA (“Freedom Of Information Act”) requests had been systematically referred for “political review” at higher levels of the executive branch of the government, and responses illegally delayed while those reviews were pending, the DHS published new rules in the Federal Register today purporting to exempt itself from any obligation to disclose records of the processing of FOIA or Privacy Act requests, or any accounting of disclosures of those requests to other agencies or departments (such as White House political commissars).
Presumably, the new Privacy Act exemption rules promulgated today by DHS are intended to keep us, or anyone else, from finding out which FOIA requests were interfered with or vetted, by whom, or for what political reasons. It’s a shameful attempt at a cover-up, and we hope that these new exemption rules will be overturned as lacking any statutory basis.
Fortunately, even if they are upheld, the rules published today won’t apply to requests that have already been made, including the request we made a few weeks ago, as soon as we learned of the confirmation of political interference with FOIA requests, for all records related to the processing of our previous FOIA requests and appeals.
We strongly suspect that our requests were among those interfered with, and that our request for an accounting of what had happened to them was part of what prompted the DHS to issue today’s new rules to preclude any more such requests from others. Having gotten confirmation that our request was received by DHS before the new rules were promulgated, we intend to pursue it diligently.