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House Committee Probing Whether State Department Broke Public Records Rules

John Kerry
John Kerry / AP
• January 20, 2016 2:00 pm

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The chairman of the House Oversight Committee is investigating the State Department’s process for handling public records requests, after a federal watchdog found that the department repeatedly failed to comply with requirements.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday asking for more information on how the State Department responds to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The State Department inspector’s general office earlier this month found numerous lapses in the department’s FOIA procedure.

According to Chaffetz, the State Department’s failure to meet FOIA requirements within the secretary’s office has resulted in a significant increase in lawsuits against the department and increasing legal expenses.

"The OIG found that searches conducted by the [State Department Office of the Executive Secretariat] do not meet statutory and regulatory requirements for completeness," wrote Chaffetz.

"The Department’s repeated failure to comply with the FOIA statute—as detailed in the OIG report—demonstrates either incompetence or purposeful obstruction of the requesters’ right to access agency records, or both," Chaffetz added.

The congressman asked for records relating to the "performance standards for the current Director of Secretariat Staff," a list of all employees with FOIA responsibilities and their performance evaluations, and communications from FOIA staffers under the past four secretaries of state related to public records requests.

Chaffetz also asked Kerry to make the State Department’s transparency coordinator available for a committee briefing before Jan. 26.

Published under: FOIA, John Kerry, State Department