Interior Dept. Stonewalls Federal FOIA Ombud

May 25, 2016

The U.S. Department of the Interior is not winning many awards for openness. A House subcommittee recently took up the complaint that Interior's Office of the Solicitor would not even honor the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman's office with a response to repeated letters.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Louie Gohmert (R-TX), held a hearing May 24, 2016, on various ethics charges against Interior officials, most notably National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. During the hearing, Republicans raised the issue of stonewalling by Interior's Solicitor's office. Ed Keable, Interior's Deputy Solicitor, who is in charge of its ethics office, was a witness at the hearing.

The federal Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), known as the FOIA ombud, had at that time six information requests to Interior's Solicitor's office regarding the status of FOIA appeals. The identity of the requesters and the nature of the requests were not disclosed. Multiple requests for information on each of the cases from OGIS had yielded "no response" or "no substantive response," according to an OGIS letter to Keable.

Possibly as a result of press coverage and the Gohmert hearing, Interior was to meet with OGIS on the matter May 25.

SEJ Publication Types: