Among State Dept. FOIA fixes amid Clinton dustup: Hire 10 EFMs


State FOIA backlog

Table from US State Dept. IG report shows backlog on FOIA requests for secretaries of state dating to Bill Clinton’s administration. Mrs. Clinton’s backlog is extensive. (Snip: IG report, Dept. of State; 1-7-16)

The latest Inspector General report for the US Dept. of State is a real eye-opener. Although the Freedom of Information Act dates to 1966, the department continues to struggle with transparency requirements. The latest IG report, replete with mind-numbing government lingo, was released on January 7, 2016. Titled ‘Evaluation of State’s FOIA Processes for Requests involving the Office of the Secretary’, the report yields more than one finding that should raise eyebrows, even among those on the left who customarily don’t blink at ineptitude and corruption widespread within the federal bureaucracy.

Solutions State came up with are in the report, and they include some questionable goals. Among them are funds allocated for hiring “10 Eligible Family Members” ( EFMs) to help address backlogs.

That matter isn’t the only finding that should raise eyebrows among common sense taxpayers, however. 

Start with a lawsuit filed by a media outlet I consider left of center. That suit, Leopold v. Department of State, was filed by Vice Media Inc. The suit contends that State “didn’t respond” to a 2014 “request for ‘every record prepared or maintained by the department that mentions or refers to, or was prepared by, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or anyone in the Office of the Secretary, for her entire tenure in office.’”

Think about that for a moment. A massive amount of material, 55,000 “pages of emails and attachments from Clinton’s private email address”, comprises information requested. Clinton provided “paper copies” to state. That was in response to The New York Times’ report on her use of a “private email address” while she was secretary.

Thus, when Democrats complain about dragging the investigation of Benghazi and/or Mrs. Clinton out, they may be unaware that, in addition to State’s failures, a media outlet likely in their own camp has contributed to the delay.

The IG report also noted that State responses to FOIA requests were “sometimes inaccurate”, claiming that records didn’t exist when they did. The “use of non-Departmental systems to conduct official business” made FOIA compliance even more difficult.  State typically doesn’t meet FOIA deadlines, and most federal agencies’ compliance is far better than that of State.

Not surprising is the fact State “has been particularly late in meeting FOIA’s timelines for requests involving the Office of the Secretary.” There are even requests dating to Mrs. Clinton’s husband’s State Dept.

The largest number of stale requests, however, relates to Mrs. Clinton during her tenure as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state.

As is usually the case when government fails its mission, State sought a budget increase for “50 new positions dedicated to FOIA operations.” Those positions include “40 subject matter expert Foreign Service annuitants,” but they also include a sweet deal for some current employees’ family members who qualify.

State wants to hire “10 Eligible Family Members” (EFMs) for the initiative. State defines EFMs as:

“An EFM (14 FAM 511.3) is: a spouse; same sex domestic partner (as defined in 3 FAM 1610); unmarried children under the age of 21; and parents, sisters, or brothers who are at least 51% dependent on the employee or the employee‘s spouse for support; are listed on the employees OF-126 (Dependency Report) or on the official travel orders of the employee.” 

What could possibly go wrong by applying favoritism to State Dept. employees sleuthing around in Mrs. Clinton’s records?  Nothing works like keeping it in the family, right?

Related on the Web:

Report: Evaluation of State’s FOIA Processes for Requests Involving the Office of the Secretary (US State Dept.)

Report on Hillary email account puts David Brock in a bind (The Daily Caller)

Clinton adviser urged using hurricane to boost Obama’s re-election bid (The Guardian)

FOIA at US Government

Featured Image: Snip, US Dept. of State website

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Jan. 8, 2016)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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