The Cause of Action Institute has sued the Department of Treasury in order to procure records detailing the agency’s "sensitive review" policy.
The CoA Institute, a nonprofit corporation concerned with government accountability, filed the lawsuit on Nov. 1 in order to compel public disclosure of policies that can delay Freedom of Information Act record requests. The CoA has been pursuing this information since June 2013, when it submitted a FOIA request to learn more about how politically sensitive or potentially embarrassing information can slow open records being fulfilled.
According to information the CoA Institute obtained from inspector general offices, sensitive review policies exist in at least seven other agencies and are applied when a representative of the news media requests documents likely to attract media or political attention. At times the sensitive review has been done by political appointees rather than FOIA professionals and can involve reviewing requestor information outside of the FOIA stipulations.
"It's ironic that our FOIA to learn more about sensitive review has itself been held up because of sensitive review," said CoA Institute Vice President John Vecchione in a press release. "Even after the Department of Treasury agreed through mediation last year to start producing responsive records, it has failed to produce a single document. Agencies have utilized opaque sensitive review processes to delay records requests, adding months and even years to an agency's response time. The public has a right to information about how agencies obstruct and delay open records requests that may reveal politically embarrassing information."