Special Report: DOE/IG-0946

You are here

September 18, 2015

The Department of Energy's Freedom of Information Act Process

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA or the Act) (5 U.S.C. 552) provides an individual the right to obtain Federal agency records unless the records (or parts of the records) are protected from disclosure by any of the nine exemptions contained in the law.  The Act, as it is applicable to the Department of Energy (Department), is presented in 10 CFR 1004, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  According to the Department's most recent Annual FOIA Report, in fiscal year 2014, 2,219 FOIA requests were received.

Recently, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs requested that the Office of Inspector General perform an inquiry to determine the involvement of noncareer officials in the FOIA response process for the period of January 1, 2007, to the present.  Additionally, the Chairman requested a certification from the Department's Chief FOIA Officer regarding the involvement of noncareer officials in the Department's response to FOIA requests.  In response to the Congressional request, we initiated this special review.  We also performed a limited review of efficiency issues that came to our attention during the course of the inquiry, the results of which are described in this report. 

To accomplish our objective, we reviewed 55 FOIA cases and 10 appeal cases, and we conducted interviews with more than 20 Department FOIA officers and related staff.  Based on this examination, nothing came to our attention to indicate that noncareer personnel (political appointees) interfered with or intervened during the FOIA process.  In certain cases, we did find limited White House participation.

Topic: Management & Administration