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DC Circuit Holds Office of Administration Is Not an Agency, Not Subject to FOIA
WASHINGTON - May 19 - Today, in CREW v. Office of Administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an opinion upholding the district court's conclusion that the Office of Administration (OA) is not an agency and therefore is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). CREW brought this lawsuit under the FOIA to uncover documents related to OA's response to the discovery that millions of emails had gone missing from White House servers. Although OA had a history of responding to FOIA requests - in fact the office's own website included regulations for filing FOIA requests with OA - after CREW sued OA suddenly claimed it was not an agency and was not required to produce any of the requested documents. The district court sided with the Bush administration, finding that OA was not an agency because it performed only administrative support functions and did not exercise substantial independent authority. In today's ruling, the D.C. Circuit agreed with that decision.
Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel, stated, "We are disappointed in the D.C. Circuit's ruling, which failed to come to grips with the fact that OA is not the functional equivalent of the sort of close presidential adviser Congress intended to exclude from the FOIA's definition of agency. Regardless of this legal ruling, CREW and 36 other organizations have called on the Obama administration to grant the public access to OA's documents under the FOIA as a matter of policy. Every president except for George W. Bush has treated OA as an agency subject to the FOIA and we are counting on President Obama to do the same. After all, transparency and accountability start at home."