Chair Grijalva Asks Inspector General to Expand Probe of DOI FOIA Handling to Include “Supplemental Awareness Review” for Top Political Appointees

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today sent a letter to Inspector General Mark Greenblatt at the Department of the Interior (DOI) asking him to assess DOI’s “Supplemental Awareness Review” process as part of its ongoing probe of how Interior responds to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The supplemental review process, begun by the Trump administration, is an opaque internal directive that seems to mandate heightened scrutiny of any response to a FOIA request that includes the names of certain political appointees in the Office of the Secretary, as well as high-level sign-off before publication.

In his letter, available at http://bit.ly/2k8wJr8, Grijalva cites multiple cases in which supplemental awareness review is thought to have delayed, altered or reduced the publication of responses to legally submitted FOIA requests. He points to emails and public statements that suggest the supplemental awareness review process “may have resulted in changes or redactions applied to FOIA document productions,” including instances in which entire sections of FOIA responses are redacted following supplemental review.

He points out that supplemental review has also led to delays in FOIA responses and, in some cases, “the removal of entire documents from FOIA productions.”

The IG is already investigating DOI’s FOIA response program, but that review is not currently known to include the supplemental awareness review process. Grijalva’s request is consistent with the purposes of the underlying investigation.

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