Spoiler alert: whole lotta’ nothing . . . so far.
In the continuing quest to provide Academy stakeholders with basic information about the ongoing threat to USMMA’s accreditation, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the “Monitoring Report” that the Academy submitted to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education on or about March 1, 2017. In the post I wrote about that request, I mused,
Wouldn’t you think that the Academy would be proud of how well it responded to MSCHE’s concerns and want to share that with the public? (I wish I had enough confidence in the Academy’s leadership so that such a musing could be considered realistic rather than fantastic.)
It would appear that my lack of confidence in Academy leadership was well-placed. Here’s the REDACTED Monitoring Report. The administration essentially redacted anything that would disclose the actions it has taken to prevent the Academy from losing its accreditation.
The basis for withholding the information is set forth in this letter. MARAD relies upon the so-called “Deliberative Process Privilege.” This privilege is supposed to protect internal communications within a federal agency, or between federal agencies, when the government is considering adopting a policy of some sort. For example, if the government is considering adopting a regulation, an internal memo written in the course of considering whether to adopt the regulation that discusses the pros and cons of the regulation is protected by the privilege. In contrast, an internal memo discussing the same pros and cons of the regulation written after the adoption of the regulation is not protected (unless the memo is written for purposes of considering repealing or modifying the regulation). Also, agency communications with non-federal agencies are not protected by the privilege.
I’ve already filed an appeal of the redaction of the information since the information that is redacted was communicated to a non-federal agency and because it reflects actions taken [past tense] — not deliberations leading up to the decision to take the actions. In other words, the redacted information reflects the final agency action rather than deliberations leading up to taking that action.
I find it particularly curious that the administration redacted the References it cited (p.47 of the PDF of the REDACTED Monitoring Report and Appendix A (pp.49-50 of the PDF). Wonder what it is trying to hide there . . . .
Stay tuned. MARAD has 20 business days to decide the appeal. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii). If it doesn’t rule in the 20 days or denies the appeal in that time, I’ll be headed to the U.S. District Court for some badly-need agency oversight.