The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee requested a government watchdog investigate additional details in its ongoing probe of the Interior Department’s new public records policy, which allows political appointees to review and potentially withhold documents from release.
In a letter sent to the Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Friday, the committee asked for the OIG to additionally look into Interior’s Supplemental Awareness Review process.
The internal policy, unearthed in a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) release, allows Interior deputy solicitor Daniel Jorjani and deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes five days to review all records requests related to senior staff in the secretary’s office before release.
The supplemental review is in addition to the Interior’s Awareness Review process first put forth as early as May 2018. That policy allows any presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed, non-career senior executive employees the ability to review FOIA requests related to them before they are released publicly.
Critics argue the policies allow political staff unprecedented input into the legitimacy of FOIA matches and that they could lead to documents being unlawfully withheld.
Interior’s IG office agreed in July to investigate the Awareness Review process at the behest of several environmental advocacy groups.