Compliance Management, Government Regulations

GAO report – DoJ cannot determine cost of FOIA lawsuits where complainants prevailed

The Department of Justice (DoJ) is unable to determine the amount spent by federal agencies litigating Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits in which the complainant substantially prevailed, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has determined.

The report found that 17 out of the 28 federal agencies examined in the report had a system in place that enabled the tracking of cost information of FOIA lawsuits. The expenses of just 57 out of 112 selected lawsuits could be tracked. The cost of these lawsuits was approximately $1.3 million between fiscal years 2009 through 2014, the report said.

The GAO report was prompted by a request from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The volume of FOIA requests raises concerns of the use of Mosaic theory security analysis, according to Martin Shelton, a Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow. There are “only so many threads” that FOIA analysts can investigate at a time, he told

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