Archives for 2022

A Federal Agency Spent Years Fighting to Uphold These Ridiculous Redactions

“11:45 is fine, will be at my desk”

“With the retirement of EXIM Bank’s former Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), EXIM Bank hired a new CISO.”

These are just two lines of innocuous text the Export-Import Bank (“EXIM”) fought to keep redacted in Cause of Action Institute’s (“CoA Institute”) Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) lawsuit that began in July 2019. In a final decision released in January 2022, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia  ruled that EXIM would finally have to disclose this information after years of stonewalling.

CoA Institute submitted its first FOIA request to EXIM on September 20, 2018 seeking communications with its largest stakeholders and beneficiaries.  It followed-up with a second request in May 2019 seeking information about a Government Accountability Office report that found EXIM failed to use a readily available federal database to ensure it was not financing companies with delinquent federal debt.

We previously covered Judge Boasberg’s first ruling that EXIM would have to disclose records in February 2021. Discussing records regarding EXIM communications with the GAO, Judge Boasberg expressed marked displeasure with the agency: “Even the briefest in camera review reveals that [the agency’s] description [for why it withheld records] is plainly overbroad and — at least with respect to some of the withheld documents — seemingly inaccurate.”

As we celebrate Sunshine Week 2022, it’s important to remember how FOIA remains an imperfect tool that often requires litigation to get federal agencies to act in a transparent manner. Any FOIA reform must address this problem, particularly as it concerns the use of Exemption 5 and the deliberative-process privilege.

Here are the rest of the overbroad and plainly unjustified redactions EXIM was finally forced to disclose after almost two and a half years of litigation:

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Read more of CoA Institute’s work on EXIM: