Mar 18, 2020 - Health

FBI stops FOIA online requests, asks for mailed letters instead

Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI announced on its website for Freedom of Information Act matters Tuesday that it's only accepting requests sent through the mail and won't process electronic ones "[d]ue to the emerging COVID-19 situation."

Why it matters: New Trump administration guidelines in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak recommend social distancing measures, including limiting social gatherings of more than 10 people. There's a global push for people who are able to switch to online work remotely to do so.

A screenshot of the FBI eFOIPA web page.
  • The Freedom of Information Act was intended to make federal government functions more transparent, providing Americans with the right to request access to records from any federal agency.

The intrigue: It is unclear from the statement posted to the Freedom of Information/Privacy Act submission portal page why it wants requests sent in the mail.

What they're saying: While the FBI has yet to comment publicly on the reason for its decision, a government attorney said in a statement to BuzzFeed the "rapidly evolving" outbreak is forcing the FBI to "drastically reduce its FOIA processing because it cannot do the work remotely, due to the system’s security constraints."

  • "The FOIA processors need to be on-site to do the work, but they are too closely positioned to be able to conform to the new social distancing guidance," the attorney added. "FBI is working on a response, but it is not clear when it will have one. And the production scheduled for the end of this month is now on hold, along with productions in many other cases."

Flashback: Forget email. The FBI wants your requests via fax

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DOJ watchdog finds flaws in FISA process beyond Carter Page application

Carter Page. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Justice Department inspector general found errors in 29 out of 29 randomized FBI applications for acquiring wiretap warrants through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, according to a report released Tuesday.

Why it matters: The broad DOJ audit of the FISA program stems from a damning investigation into the FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, which uncovered "serious performance failures" by some FBI officials during the Russia probe. The IG's final findings come as Congress debates whether to renew the authority it grants to the FISA courts.

Public wants federal government, not states, in charge on coronavirus

Data: KFF Health Tracking Poll, March 25-30, 2020; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Trump has repeatedly said that he sees the federal government’s role as “backup” to the states on the response to coronavirus. But Americans want the federal government — not states — to take the lead, according to our latest KFF tracking poll.

Why it matters: States have so far been the ones issuing specific directives about social distancing, and are also trying to source health care supplies.

Go deeperArrowApr 7, 2020 - Health

Navarro memos warning of mass coronavirus death circulated in January

Image from a Feb 23rd memo to President Trump

In late January, President Trump's economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.

The state of play: By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to 2 million Americans could die of the virus.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Apr 7, 2020 - Health