US State Dept’s ‘FOIA Surge’ Ends Amid Accusations Of Political Retaliation

The State Department has quietly ended the controversial “FOIA surge” launched last October under the since-fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Capitol Hill and State Department sources tell TPM.

The effort involved pulling hundreds of people from offices across the agency — including former ambassadors, former high-level leaders of bureaus and former National Security Council staff — and reassigning them largely clerical work processing Freedom of Information Act requests.

An internal memo from the State Department’s Bureau of Administration dated Oct. 12 — obtained by TPM from a Capitol Hill source — described the surge as a “tax” on all bureaus within the agency.

Though the State Department has insisted that the transfers were made “without regard to politics,” whistleblowers within the agency and members of Congress have aired suspicions that the transfers were politically-motivated and possibly retaliatory, pointing to the reassignment of senior officials who previously worked on refugee resettlement, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison, and other initiatives viewed unfavorably by the Trump administration. Some of the officials were transferred to the FOIA office after the right-wing news outlet Breitbart urged Trump to get rid of them, calling them “holdover Obama loyalist bureaucrats.” Read more…