Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Papoi/FOIA matter noted:

"Denying or interfering with employees' rights to furnish information to Congress is against the law," Issa [R-Ca] wrote in a five-page letter obtained by The Associated Press. "Federal officials who retaliate against or otherwise interfere with employees who exercise their right to furnish information to Congress are not entitled to have their salaries paid by taxpayer dollars."

The Homeland Security Department said Papoi was not technically demoted because she never lost pay or benefits, although Papoi's new boss, Delores J. Barber, took over her title as deputy chief FOIA officer and moved into Papoi's office. As a GS-15 federal worker, Papoi, who has a law degree, earns between $99,628 and $129,517. Under the federal employment system, a demotion usually involves loss of a pay grade.

The underlying issue:

Issa disclosed in his letter that Papoi complained confidentially to the inspector general in March 2010 that the Homeland Security Department had illegally sidetracked hundreds of requests from journalists, watchdog groups and others for federal records to top political advisers, who wanted information about those requesting the materials.

Separately, from

The Identity Project notes on its blog today that the Department of Homeland Security singled out EFF, along with other activist groups and media representatives such as the ACLU, EPIC, Human Rights Watch, AP, etc, for an extra layer of review on its FOIA requests. Records posted online by the DHS in response to one of the Identity Project’s FOIA requests show that the agency passed certain requests through extra levels of screening. According to a policy memo from DHS’s Chief FOIA Officer and Chief Privacy Officer, Mary Ellen Callahan, DHS components were required to report “significant FOIA activities” in weekly reports to the Privacy Office, which the Privacy Office then integrated into its weekly report to the White House Liason. Included among these designated “significant FOIA activities” were requests from any members of “an activist group, watchdog organization, special interest group, etc. “ and “requested documents [that] will garner media attention or [are] receiving media attention.”

At least three of our FOIA requests to the DHS are mentioned by name in the documents (more may be mentioned but significant sections of the documents are blocked out). These include our request for information on how federal agencies are monitoring social networking sites, our request seeking misconduct reports submitted to the Intelligence Oversight Board, and our request seeking information on how the DHS addresses laptop encryption during border searches. (See DHS Documents here (p.50), here (p. 31), here (p. 46), here (p. 48), and here (p.6).)


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