Letter to Senator Grassley and Congressman Issa Regarding DOT's FOIA Process
In response to a request from Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Darrell Issa, we examined the Department of Transportation’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) processes from January 2008 to the present to determine whether or to what extent political appointees are made aware of information requests and have a role in reviewing requests or making decisions. Overall, we found that political appointees within the Department have a limited role in reviewing and approving FOIA requests and responses. Most FOIA responses are reviewed only by career service employees prior to release. Our survey of the Department's FOIA officers found no evidence suggesting that political appointees have impeded the FOIA process. We also reviewed hotline complaints made to our office over the past 8 years and found no allegations of political interference or filtering involving the review and approval of FOIA responses within the Department. Finally, we found that there have been no substantive changes to the Department's FOIA process since 2008. Any changes noted by FOIA officers were minor and made to either reduce backlog, improve efficiency, or centralize the process.