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2002 Calendar Year Report on Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Litigation Activities: Compliance Report


During 2002, the Department of Justice, primarily through its Office of Information and Privacy (OIP), engaged in numerous activities in discharging the Department's responsibility to encourage agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (2000), as amended by Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, Pub. L. No. 107-306, 116 Stat. 2383, § 312 (2002) (to be codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A), (E)). A summary description of these activities, which is required by 5 U.S.C. § 552(e)(5), is set forth below.
(a) Counseling and Consultations
One of the primary means by which the Department of Justice encouraged agency compliance with the FOIA during 2002 was through OIP's counseling activities, which were conducted largely over the telephone by experienced OIP attorneys known to FOIA personnel throughout the executive branch as "FOIA Counselors." Through this FOIA Counselor service, OIP provided information, advice, and policy guidance to FOIA personnel at all federal departments and agencies, as well as to other persons with questions regarding the proper interpretation or implementation of the Act. OIP has established a special telephone line to facilitate its FOIA Counselor service -- (202) 514-3642 (514-FOIA) -- which it publicizes widely. (OIP also receives telefaxed FOIA Counselor inquiries, at (202) 514-1009, and it maintains a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) telephone line -- (202) 616-5498 -- which gives it the capability of receiving TDD calls from speech- or hearing-impaired persons.) While most of this counseling was conducted by telephone, other options were made available as well. The counseling services provided by OIP consisted of the following:
(1) OIP continued to provide basic FOIA Counselor guidance on a broad range of FOIA-related subjects. Most of the FOIA Counselor calls received by OIP involve issues raised in connection with proposed agency responses to initial FOIA requests or administrative appeals, but many are more general anticipatory inquiries regarding agency responsibilities and administrative practices under the Act. (The Department of Justice specifies that all agencies intending to deny FOIA requests raising novel issues should consult with OIP to the extent practicable -- see 28 C.F.R. § 0.23a(b) (2002) -- and it has been found that such consultations are very valuable in encouraging agency compliance with the Act.) More than 3000 requests for assistance were received by OIP and handled in this way during 2002, a particularly large volume of such inquiries in comparison to those received in preceding years.
(2) Frequently, a FOIA Counselor inquiry is of such complexity or arises at such a level that it warrants the direct involvement of OIP's supervisory personnel, often one or both of its co-directors or its deputy director. Approximately 350 inquiries of this nature were handled in 2002.
(3) Sometimes a determination is made that a FOIA Counselor inquiry requires more extensive discussion and analysis by OIP attorneys, including supervisory attorneys, on the basis of the information that is presented by the agency. Such a consultation involves a meeting or teleconference between agency representatives and OIP attorneys at which all factual, legal, and policy issues related to the matter presented are thoroughly discussed and resolved. There were fifty-four such formal consultations in 2002, including twenty-three with the general counsel or deputy general counsel of the agency involved. In addition, OIP provided consultation assistance to the Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, to the Chairman of the National Security Council's Coordinating Committee on Records Access and Information Security, to the acting director of the Foreign Terrorism Tracking Tack Force, to the acting head of the Office of Homeland Security Transition Planning Office, to the Director of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, to the Vice Chair of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board, and to the Deputy Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia during the year.
(4) An additional counseling service provided by OIP involves FOIA matters in litigation, where advice and guidance are provided at the request of, and in close coordination with, the Department of Justice's litigating divisions. This service involves OIP reviewing issues and proposed litigation positions in a case from both legal and policy standpoints, and then recommending positions that promote uniform and proper agency compliance with the Act. In many such instances, OIP is asked to consult on litigation strategy and in the drafting of briefs or petitions to be filed at the district court or appellate court. OIP is consulted in all instances in which the Department of Justice must decide whether to pursue a FOIA or FOIA-related issue on appeal. OIP also is regularly consulted in all FOIA cases, and regarding all FOIA-related issues, that are handled by the Office of the Solicitor General before the United States Supreme Court. Most often, these litigation consultations are provided by one or both of OIP's co-directors. There were approximately 125 such litigation consultations in 2002, including forty-one that involved recommendations as to the advisability of initial or further appellate court review and six that involved the question of whether to seek or oppose certiorari in the Supreme Court. In two such cases, OIP provided extensive assistance to the Office of the Solicitor General in support of the Department's certiorari petitions.
(b) FOIA Post
In 2002, the Department of Justice completed its first full year of publishing FOIA Post, its more high-tech and cost-efficient replacement for its longtime FOIA Update newsletter. The Justice Department's FOIA Update newsletter was published from 1979 to 2000, in a paper format that became increasingly antiquated with the passage of time. To remedy this, the Department instituted FOIA Post as a novel and more effective means of disseminating Freedom of Information Act information to federal agencies and other interested parties through use of the Department's FOIA Web site. FOIA Post now serves as the primary means of FOIA policy dissemination and as a highly efficient vehicle for communicating FOIA-related information to agency FOIA personnel and others who are interested in the Act's administration. It includes the same types of FOIA guidance and information features that were disseminated in paper form through FOIA Update, as well as additional FOIA-related features, and it does so in a more efficient electronic form that also makes very effective use of electronic links to referenced documents and other sources of information in a Web-based format.
This natural evolution to Web-based governmentwide information dissemination for the FOIA not only takes advantage of the cost-efficiencies of electronic communication, it also is in keeping with the Act's growing emphasis on the disclosure of agency information to the public electronically, through use of the World Wide Web, under the provisions of the Electronic FOIA amendments. Just as individual agency FOIA Web sites have become a vital means by which the FOIA is administered at all federal agencies, all agencies now can look to the Justice Department's FOIA Web site for the most recent postings of information regarding matters of governmentwide FOIA administration. The Justice Department emphasizes this point in its training programs as well as at its FOIA Officers Conferences, and it recommends that this part of its FOIA Web site be electronically "bookmarked" by all agency FOIA personnel and others interested in the Act for this purpose. The response to readily accessing FOIA Post in this fashion has been very positive, from both government and nongovernment users alike.
During 2002, OIP disseminated a variety of different items for the guidance of federal agencies through FOIA Post. In addition to several substantive policy guidance memoranda (discussed below), OIP used this new electronic publication portal to distribute, on a quarterly basis throughout the year, newly prepared summaries of all new FOIA decisions received by OIP. See, e.g., FOIA Post, "New FOIA Decisions, April-June 2002" (posted 7/2/02). Further, OIP prepared and published such summaries of the FOIA decisions that were handed down during past years as well, in compilations covering six-month periods at a time. See, e.g., FOIA Post, "Compiled FOIA Decisions (Received July-December 1997)" (posted 1/31/02). During 2002, OIP published several additional such retrospective compilations, and it announced its plans to continue this compilation project to encompass at least five additional years, so as to cover the entire decade of the 1990s. See FOIA Post, "Compilations of FOIA Decisions Now Reach Back Five Years" (posted 8/30/02).
Another major guidance tool disseminated through FOIA Post during 2002 was OIP's summary compilation of the information contained in the annual FOIA reports that are prepared by all federal departments and agencies in accordance with the amended annual reporting requirements of the Act. Although the Electronic FOIA amendments do not require that it do so, OIP initiated the practice of compiling aggregate summaries of all agencies' annual FOIA report data as soon as those reports are filed by all agencies each year. In 2002, OIP prepared summaries for both the 2000 and 2001 fiscal years, and in conjunction with this also emphasized the importance of all agencies heeding the Act's requirements for the completion of their annual FOIA reports in a timely fashion. See, e.g., FOIA Post, "Summary of Annual FOIA Reports for Fiscal Year 2001" (posted 10/17/02).
Through FOIA Post, OIP also provided governmentwide notification of FOIA training opportunities during the year; provided similar notification of a governmentwide FOIA Officers Conference and of OIP's FOIA Guide Seminar; announced the procedures by which OIP publications would be made available by the Government Printing Office during the year; encouraged the holding of annual FOIA conferences by individual agencies through a feature article on such conferences held by the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation; and provided an update on FOIA-related activity in the United States Supreme Court. Additionally, OIP published in FOIA Post an extensive interview that it conducted with Representative Stephen Horn, Chairman of the House subcommittee holding jurisdiction over FOIA matters, upon the occasion of his retirement at the close of the 107th Congress. See FOIA Post, "FOIA Post Interview: Chairman Stephen Horn" (posted 12/19/02). OIP also published in FOIA Post a comprehensive outline of the advice that it has given to representatives of foreign governments in order to promote the adoption and successful implementation of FOIA-like "transparency in government" laws overseas. See FOIA Post, "OIP Gives FOIA Implementation Advice to Other Nations" (posted 12/12/02).
Lastly, during 2002, OIP introduced a new FOIA Post feature through which it regularly disseminates descriptions of Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act-related positions that currently are available at federal agencies, in an effort to facilitate the hiring of highly qualified attorneys and access professionals to work in the FOIA and Privacy Act areas throughout the federal government. See, e.g., FOIA Post, "FOIA/Privacy Act Positions Available at Federal Agencies" (posted 5/9/02). Four such listings were posted during the second half of the year.
(c) Policy Guidance
During 2002, the Department of Justice issued policy and advisory discussions of FOIA issues for the guidance of all federal agencies, using its FOIA Post online publication as its primary means of policy dissemination. The major policy memorandum issued during the year was a memorandum issued to the heads of all federal departments and agencies entitled "Safeguarding Information Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction and Other Sensitive Records Related to Homeland Security." This memorandum was prepared and authored by OIP at the request of the White House, in conjunction with the issuance of a directive on that subject by Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card, Jr. In it, OIP advised agencies on the careful treatment required for sensitive information related to America's homeland security whenever it becomes the subject of a FOIA request, in accordance with the Attorney General's FOIA Memorandum of October 12, 2001. See FOIA Post, "Guidance on Homeland Security Information Issued" (posted 3/21/02).
A second major policy area addressed in 2002 was the proper treatment of contract pricing information, or "unit prices," in awarded government contracts under Exemption 4 of the FOIA. This issue, which often is the subject of "reverse" FOIA litigation, has long been one of the most controversial issues under the Act. In two pieces of policy guidance issued during the year, and also in the "Exemption 4" Section of the May 2002 edition of the "Justice Department Guide to the FOIA," OIP reviewed recent case law decided within the D.C. Circuit and advised agencies on its proper import and impact regarding the treatment of unit prices. It advised that agencies "should in all cases notify the submitter that [a request for such pricing information] has been made in order to obtain and consider any objections to disclosure," and that in all cases they "should conduct a thorough competitive harm analysis . . . on a case-by-case basis." FOIA Post, "Treatment of Unit Prices Under Exemption 4" (posted 5/29/02). Further, OIP advised agencies that "the D.C. Circuit's McDonnell Douglas decision did not create any per se rule" regarding the treatment of unit prices under the FOIA. FOIA Post, "New McDonnell Douglas Opinion Aids Unit Price Decisionmaking" (posted 10/4/02); see also Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview (May 2002), at 250-54.
A third major policy subject, which also was discussed at a FOIA Officers Conference conducted by OIP in September 2002, was agency implementation of the electronic availability and annual reporting requirements of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA), in accordance with the 2001 General Accounting Office (GAO) report entitled "Progress in Implementing the 1996 Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments" (Mar. 16, 2001), as supplemented by GAO's 2002 report entitled "Update on the Implementation of the 1996 Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments" (Aug. 31, 2002). Immediately upon the public issuance of GAO's follow-up report in September 2002, OIP issued guidance to all agencies that reviewed its contents, focused agency attention on areas in which further efforts were required for full E-FOIA implementation, and advocated use of the report as follows: "Its level of detail with respect to both electronic availability compliance and annual reporting accuracy, in particular, should be relied upon by all agencies both in identifying continued areas needing improvement and in making all such improvements at this time. The objective, of course, must be full compliance with all requirements of the law." FOIA Post, "Follow-Up Report on E-FOIA Implementation Issued" (posted 9/27/02); see also FOIA Post, "FOIA Officers Conference Scheduled" (posted 9/17/02). This guidance, together with a copy of the new GAO report, was distributed to representatives of all agencies at OIP's FOIA Officers Conference on the day that it was issued. OIP also addressed this subject in FOIA Post earlier in the year in anticipation of the completion of GAO's updated E-FOIA implementation study. See FOIA Post, "GAO to Update Its E-FOIA Implementation Study" (posted 3/8/02).
Additionally, during 2002, OIP provided policy guidance to agencies also on such subjects as the impact of the amendment to the Freedom of Information Act that was enacted late in the year as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, Pub. L. No. 107-306, 116 Stat. 2383, § 312 (2002) (to be codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A), (E)), see FOIA Post, "FOIA Amended by Intelligence Authorization Bill" (posted 12/23/02); the potential use by agencies of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) as an alternative, highly efficient means of information dissemination through its "superseding" fee schedules, see FOIA Post, "NTIS: An Available Means of Record Disclosure" (posted 8/30/02; supplemented 9/23/02); and on the practices that should be followed by all agencies in their use of "cut-off" dates for determining the scope of records properly responsive to a FOIA request in relation to the search that is conducted, see Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview (May 2002), at 46-47.
(d) Additional FOIA Reference Materials
In 2002, OIP published a new edition of its longstanding FOIA reference volume, the Freedom of Information Case List, which has been used as a reference tool by both those inside and those outside of the federal government for more than two decades. This volume contains a comprehensive list of court decisions in access cases, which are indexed according to specific FOIA exemptions and other topics. In the May 2002 edition, the number of decisions listed and indexed in this volume surpassed 5000. In addition to cases decided under the FOIA, this volume also included (1) lists of cases decided under the Privacy Act of 1974, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and the Government in the Sunshine Act; (2) an "overview" FOIA case list and a list of "reverse" FOIA cases; (3) a chronological list of related law review articles; (4) an updated topical index of all FOIA cases listed; and (5) the full texts of the four major federal access statutes.
Additionally, in 2002 OIP also published what has become its primary reference volume, the Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview. The principal component of this publication is the "Justice Department Guide to the Freedom of Information Act," an extensive discussion of the Act's exemptions and its procedural aspects which formerly was published as part of the Case List volume. See FOIA Post, "New 'FOIA Guide' and Case List to Be Published in May" (posted 1/31/02). This publication also contains an overview discussion of the provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974 that is prepared by OIP in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget, as well as the texts of both access statutes.
The "Justice Department Guide to the FOIA" was updated and expanded to more than 750 pages in length in 2002, in an improved font style, and it made comprehensive use of electronic citations (i.e., WESTLAW and LEXIS), in lieu of citations to slip opinions, for more convenient reference purposes. For this revised edition of the "Justice Department Guide to the FOIA," OIP made major revisions incorporating the Attorney General's FOIA Memorandum of October 12, 2001 and the White House Homeland Security Directive of March 19, 2002; it included new homeland security-related discussions in applicable sections; it added entirely new subsections to two exemption sections; and it added multiple new discussions of the newly sensitive issue of waiver of FOIA exemptions in litigation.
OIP distributed courtesy copies of the 2002 Freedom of Information Case List and the 2002 Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview to each federal agency, to various congressional offices, and to other interested parties. It also facilitated both volumes' wide distribution within the executive branch at a low per-copy cost and made them available without cost through the Justice Department's FOIA-training programs. Additional copies of both the Case List and the Guide & Overview were made available to agencies and to the public through the Government Printing Office at a cost of $45 and $60 per copy, respectively. OIP also placed the major component parts of the Guide & Overview on the "Reference Materials" part of the Department's FOIA Web site (where they can be accessed at in order to afford electronic access to them as well.
For additional reference purposes, during 2002, all issues of FOIA Update for the years 1979-2000 were made available on the Justice Department's FOIA Web site, where they were fully accessible electronically -- and were "keyword searchable" -- as an aid to ready research. Additionally, guidance items from FOIA Update (and now also from FOIA Post) were used in all Justice Department FOIA-training programs and were made available through such programs offered by the Graduate School of the United States Department of Agriculture (including those formerly conducted by the Office of Personnel Management) and by the American Society of Access Professionals nationwide.
Also made available on the Department's FOIA Web site during 2002 was the "Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Reference Guide," which was developed in accordance with the Electronic FOIA amendments and is a model for the counterpart reference guides that are prepared by other federal agencies. This reference tool for potential FOIA requesters describes the procedural aspects of making a FOIA request, specifies the different types of records that are maintained by the Department of Justice's many components, and describes the types of records and information that are available to the public from the Department without the necessity of making a FOIA request. It consists of fourteen pages, plus five detailed attachments, and it contains much information that is readily adaptable for use by all other federal agencies in their own FOIA reference guides. An updated edition of this publication was issued by OIP in December 2002; further, its earlier edition was supplemented during the year with additional information pertaining to the Justice Department's "major information systems," in accordance with a provision of the Electronic FOIA amendments, 5 U.S.C. § 552(g)(1). It also was used by the nations of Mexico and the United Kingdom in their preparations for the implementation of their new FOIA-like statutes during the year.
In accordance with another provision of the Electronic FOIA amendments, 5 U.S.C. § 552(e)(3), the Justice Department in 2002 maintained "a single electronic access point" for the consolidated availability of the annual FOIA reports of all federal agencies. In furtherance of this, OIP receives a copy of each agency's annual FOIA report each year, reviews it for correctness and completeness, and then makes all such reports promptly available at its central electronic site. These annual FOIA reports, beginning with those for fiscal year 1998, are organized by the Department and made readily accessed to the public on the Department's FOIA Web site.
Additionally, in 2002 OIP continued to expand its practice of reviewing all agencies' annual reports as they are sent to it for this electronic availability purpose, and then contacting individual agencies to discuss and resolve any identified question or discrepancy with them, in accordance with the 2002 report of the General Accounting Office entitled "Update on the Implementation of the 1996 Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments" and its 2001 predecessor. This GAO report found that OIP's expanded review activities "have resulted in improvements to both the quality of agencies' annual reports and on-line availability of information." Id. at 62. Also, as noted above, OIP in 2002 extended its new practice of issuing governmentwide compilations of agency annual FOIA report data by preparing compilations for the two preceding years.
In 2002, OIP also worked together with the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget to publish an updated edition of a publication entitled "Your Right to Federal Records," the federal government's basic public information brochure on access to agency information. This joint publication of the Justice Department and GSA, which is made available to the general public in brochure form through GSA's Consumer Information Center, is designed to answer the basic questions of any person who is interested in exercising his or her statutory rights under the FOIA and/or the Privacy Act of 1974 to seek access to records maintained by any federal agency. Over the years, it consistently has been one of the Consumer Information Center's most heavily requested brochures, and it also is made available to the public electronically through the Justice Department's FOIA Web site.
Lastly, at the request of the Committee on Government Reform of the House of Representatives, OIP assisted the Committee in the preparation of its biennial FOIA reference publication, A Citizen's Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records, H.R. Rep. No. 371, 107th Cong., 2d Sess. (2002). That reference tool, as well as many others, is listed in the "Basic FOIA References" Section of the "Justice Department Guide to the FOIA," as updated in 2002. See Freedom of Information Act Guide & Privacy Act Overview (May 2002), at 768-74.
(e) Training
During 2002, OIP furnished speakers and workshop instructors for a variety of seminars, conferences, public broadcasts, individual agency training sessions, and similar programs designed to promote the proper administration of the FOIA within the executive branch and/or a greater understanding of the Act's administration by those outside of the executive branch. Eighteen professional staff members of OIP gave a total of 138 training presentations during the year, including at several training sessions designed to meet the specific FOIA-training needs of individual agencies. Such individualized training sessions were conducted for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Government Ethics, the United States Postal Service, the Library of Congress, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Federal Credit Union Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration; for the Departments of Labor, Transportation, and the Treasury; and for several individual components of the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. OIP training presentations also were made at the annual convention of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, at the Homeland Security Summit of the State of Indiana, at the Annual Federal Dispute Resolution Conference, and for two local bar associations.
Additionally, the co-directors of OIP gave a total of 103 presentations at various FOIA-training programs, including those held by the American Society of Access Professionals, the American Bar Association, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Freedom Forum, the National Press Club, and the Army Judge Advocate General's School. They made key presentations at the Department of Labor's Annual FOIA Conference, NASA's Annual FOIA Conference, the Department of Transportation's Annual FOIA Conference, the American Bar Association's Annual Midyear Meeting, the Freedom Forum's Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration, and at a conference conducted by the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center. They also made multiple appearances on C-SPAN, video conference broadcasts, and a foreign television network ("Canal N," based in Lima, Peru) in publicly discussing the Department's FOIA policies and practices, most particularly regarding post-9/11 homeland security-related concerns, and gave several related interviews to print media in coordination with the Justice Department's Office of Public Affairs. During the year, one of the co-directors also represented the United States and presented a paper at the 2002 Freedom of Information and Data Protection Conference held in London, England.
In conjunction with the Justice Department's National Advocacy Center, OIP conducted a wide range of FOIA-training programs in 2002, ranging from half-day introductory sessions for non-FOIA personnel to advanced programs for highly experienced FOIA personnel. OIP's basic two-day training course, entitled "The Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals," was conducted several times during 2002 in Columbia, South Carolina (now the base location of the National Advocacy Center), and in Washington, D.C. as well. OIP also conducted two sessions in 2002 of its "Freedom of Information Act Administrative Forum," a training program devoted almost entirely to administrative matters arising under the Act -- such matters as record-retrieval practices, multitrack queue usage, backlog management, affirmative disclosure, and automated record processing. Designed to serve also as a forum for the governmentwide exchange of ideas and information on all matters of FOIA administration, this training program regularly brings together veteran FOIA processors from throughout the government and encourages them to share their experience in administering the Act on a daily basis. Also conducted twice in 2002 was OIP's "Advanced Freedom of Information Act Seminar," each session of which featured a presentation by the FOIA Coordinator for the National Security Archive on the administration of the FOIA from the perspective of a FOIA requester and also contained a special segment covering the electronic availability and annual FOIA reporting requirements of the Electronic FOIA amendments as addressed by the GAO reports discussed above.
In addition to its regular range of FOIA-training programs that are offered in conjunction with the Justice Department's National Advocacy Center, OIP also conducted a training seminar in 2002 that is designed for the access professional or agency official who needs only a periodic update on current FOIA case law and policy developments. Entitled the "FOIA Guide Seminar," it was conducted by OIP immediately after completion of the 2002 edition of the "Justice Department Guide to the Freedom of Information Act," a special prepublication copy of which was provided to all seminar attendees for immediate delivery to their agencies. This program, which is conducted on a biennial basis in conjunction with the "FOIA Guide"'s publication, efficiently helps to meet the consistently high demand for FOIA training in the Washington, D.C. area. In 2002, OIP arranged to conduct this program in the main auditorium of the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center Building, where more than 500 FOIA personnel, representing nearly all federal agencies, were able to attend.
Lastly, as is referenced above, in 2002 OIP also held a FOIA Officers Conference for the principal FOIA officers of all federal agencies to promptly discuss the report of GAO's 2002 study of governmentwide E-FOIA implementation, which updated a study completed by GAO on the same subject in 2001. By special arrangement with GAO, in conjunction with the Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management, and Intergovernmental Relations of the House Committee on Government Reform, OIP timed this conference to coincide with the report's public issuance, and it obtained copies from GAO for immediate distribution to all agencies directly at this program. More than 100 agency representatives attended.
(f) Briefings
OIP conducted a number of general or specific FOIA briefings during 2002 for persons interested in the operation of the Act, such as representatives of foreign governments concerned with the implementation or potential adoption of their own government information access laws. OIP provided briefings and FOIA materials to representatives of the nations of Japan, Peru, China, Kazakhstan, Haiti, France, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Poland, four additional Eastern European nations, and several nations of French Equatorial Africa. It also provided such briefings to Members of the Mexican Congress, Members of the Parliament of Ghana, and the Chairperson of the Access to Information Task Force of Canada.
Additionally, in 2002 OIP continued to provide briefing and consultation assistance to the District of Columbia Government in connection with the D.C. Council's consideration of both legislative and administrative reform of the operation of its statutory counterpart to the Freedom of Information Act; it conducted briefings on FOIA policy for representatives of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and for representatives of the Society of Professional Journalists; it provided a formal public consultation and editorial assistance to the Freedom of Information Center of the University of Missouri School of Journalism; it briefed conference committee staff for the House Energy Committee on the FOIA-related aspects of pending bioterrorism legislation; it briefed the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee staff on the FOIA aspects of pending homeland security legislation; it briefed a National Security Council/Office of Science and Technology Policy working group on implementation of the March 19, 2002 Card Memorandum; and it provided two briefings to foreign delegations visiting the United States under the auspices of the Council of Government Ethics Laws. OIP also held several briefings, and provided other forms of assistance, in support of the General Accounting Office's FOIA-related activities during the year.
(g) Congressional and Public Inquiries
In 2002, OIP responded to twenty-three congressional inquiries pertaining to FOIA-related matters and, in its "FOIA Ombudsman" capacity, see FOIA Update, Vol. XIV, No. 3, at 8, it responded to eight complaints received from members of the public who were concerned that an agency had failed to comply with the requirements of the Act. In all such instances involving a concern of agency noncompliance, the matter was discussed with the agency and, wherever appropriate, a recommendation was made regarding the steps needed to be taken by the agency in order to bring it into proper compliance. Additionally, OIP responded to more than one hundred written inquiries from members of the public seeking information regarding the basic operation of the Act or related matters during the year, as well as to innumerable such inquiries received by telephone. The number of written inquiries received during 2002 continued to be smaller than in recent years, largely due to the increased availability of information that is now accessible to the public through the Justice Department's FOIA Web site.


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Updated January 13, 2023