During Sunshine Week, Sarbanes Highlights the Trump Administration’s Failure to Comply with Freedom of Information Act Requests [Video]

At an Oversight and Reform Committee Hearing, Congressman Sarbanes Questioned U.S. Department of Interior Deputy Chief FOIA Officer Rachel Spector about Her Agency’s Efforts to Hide Important Information from the Public


Mar 13, 2019
Contact: Daniel Jacobs
(202) 225-4016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing today, Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) questioned U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Chief FOIA Officer Rachel Spector about her agency’s failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and its efforts to restrict the public’s access to agency records.

“The Department of [the] Interior proposed a rule in December that would restrict public access to its records,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Under the rule, the Interior could ‘impose a monthly limit for processing records’ for an individual requestor…. The reason that concerns me is, first of all I’m not sure a monthly limit comports with the spirit of FOIA. The agencies to which these inquiries are directed are under an obligation to respond, and a monthly limit would appear to cut against that obligation.”

Sarbanes continued: “I’m particularly troubled at this notion that the monthly limit could just change…. The potential to manipulate the monthly limit from month-to-month, either based on the kinds of requests that had come in previously, or in anticipation of requests that may be coming, could allow for a lot of mischief…. The reason that [this] concerns me is there’s a potential for politics to get in the mix.”

Sarbanes concluded: “I’ve asked the Department to go back and take a closer look at this rule, because I think there’s the potential for it to be used in a way that cuts against the obligations under FOIA.”

See below for full video of the exchange.