New DOJ FOIA report an exercise in “grade inflation”

From the National Security Archive "Unredacted" blog:

The Department of Justice Office of Information Policy’s latest report on the status of FOIA, entitled Summary of Agency Chief FOIA Officer Reports for 2012 and Assessment of Agency Progress in Implementing the President’s FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General’s FOIA Guideline with OIP Guidance for Further Improvement, paints an overly laudatory picture of the status of FOIA in the US. Its appendix lists 99 agencies that are graded on 17 metrics, such as “high release rate for requests processed for disclosure,” “new material added to website,” and “decrease in backlogged requests”.
The report is a useful synthesis of information, culled from each agency’s Chief FOIA Officer Report and Year-End FOIA Report. The section about the steps that agencies have taken to increase proactive disclosure of documents is especially interesting reading. The addition of the “Did they close their Ten Oldest Requests?” metric is a welcome and beneficial measurement. Even the DOJ OIP’s 17-point grade scale of agencies could serve as a useful measurement of FOIA performance, if it were graded more accurately. The chief problem with the report is its conclusions. Primarily, that the DOJ OIP has, once again, cooked its books to omit huge quantities of unfulfilled FOIA requeststs from its analyses.