DHS Review of Responses to Significant Freedom of Information Act Requests (Verification Review of OIG-11-67)
We determined that due to changes DHS made to the process, political appointees do not influence Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processors to delay or withhold the release of FOIA information. Unlike the former process, the new process does not provide opportunities for political appointees in headquarters to inappropriately interfere with releases of significant FOIA information, and we did not identify any instances in which headquarters officials used the process to engage in those activities. However, because DHS has not issued final guidance for the process, it is vulnerable to misuse in the future. We recommended that the Chief FOIA Officer/Chief Privacy Officer issue final guidance on the 1-Day Awareness Notification Process. The guidance should state 1) the purpose of the process is to inform senior officials of the imminent release of information that may raise public interest and 2) FOIA staff determine whether information should be released or withheld under FOIA’s exceptions and exemptions.