A Bloomberg Shaggy Dog FOIA story

Bloomberg’s Bob Ivry has an update on a FOIA request lauched by his late colleague Mark Pittman. The portrayal of the Treasury department bureaucracy’s response to Pittman’s request for documents naming the $300 billion of Citigroup securities the U.S. government agreed to back during the bailout days is sure to set your teeth grinding. Pittman filed the request in January 2009.

[Pittman] had waited about 10 months for a response when he died on Nov. 25, 2009. Shortly afterward, Michael Galleher, an attorney working on contract for the Treasury Department, called Bloomberg News, asking where he could send the responsive documents. Attempts to return Galleher’s call failed; he couldn’t be found at the agency.

A December call to Gilmore, the FOIA liaison, was returned by Daneisha White, a FOIA officer, who suggested calling Michael C. Bell, the FOIA manager in the Office of Financial Stability. Bell referred questions back to Gilmore. …

Gilmore called back in January, saying Galleher had left the agency at the end of 2009. He and his colleagues would search for Pittman’s FOIA documents, he said, because they weren’t sure where they were.

In April came a call from Galleher. He said that he had returned to work at Treasury’s FOIA office, that he had the relevant documents for Pittman’s request and that he would send them that week.

“I need to clear the old requests,” he said…

In May, Galleher reported that he would have something to send soon. He said the same thing in June, and then in July.

Ugh. And it gets worse: when Treasury finally responded this Fall, they gave Bloomberg less than 800 pages of documents, none of which where what Pittman asked for, none of which named the securities, most of which where heavily redacted, and a good number of which had been publicly available before Pittman lodged his request.

Bloomberg has been waging a long lawduit against the Federal Reserve Bank over that opaque entity’s denial of another Pittman FOIA request. Ivry’s article reminds us that despite the news agency’s victory against the Fed in both district and appellate courts, the requested information has not yet been released.

“The Fed,” Ivry writes, “has until tomorrow to decide whether to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case.”

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.