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Chaffetz Rips Kerry On ‘Inaccurate And Incomplete’ FOIA Responses

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House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. [crscore]Jason Chaffetz[/crscore] wants to know why Department of State officials gave “inaccurate and incomplete” responses to public records requests.

The Utah Republican demanded an explanation from Secretary of State John Kerry of the State Department’s Freedom of Information Act policies and the performance evaluations of multiple employees who administer the law within the agency.

Chaffetz letter, which was made public late Tuesday, followed a a blistering State Department Inspector General report earlier this month that said the agency’s FOIA searches “do not consistently meet statutory and regulatory requirements for completeness and rarely meet requirements for timeliness.”

State Department officials sometimes took 500 days to respond to requestors when federal law requires a response within 20 days. Lawsuits arising from the department’s FOIA responses are on the rise even as the number of such requests processed has dropped.

“The department’s repeated failure to comply with the FOIA statute — as detailed in the OIG report — demonstrates either incompetence or purposeful obstruction of the requesters’ right to access agency records, or both,” Chaffetz wrote.

“The department’s posture with respect to FOIA compliance has resulted in a dramatic increase in costly litigation, and it directly contributes to the department’s inability to meet statutory deadlines, as well as increased backlogs,” he said.

Chaffetz asked Kerry to provide the following no later than Feb. 1:

  • Performance standards for the current director of secretariat staff
  • A list of names, titles and dates of employment of all employees with FOIA responsibilities
  • Employee evaluations for FOIA personnel
  • A list of all training each FOIA officer received
  • All records and communication related to each request involving the executive secretariat
  • A list of FOIA-related lawsuits filed against the State Department over the last 15 years

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