USPS Regrets Its Transparency, Asks FOIA Requester To Remove 1,200 Pages It Forgot To Withhold

from the please-double-check-your-work-for-accuracy dept

The government has fucked up and it thinks citizens are obligated to help it unfuck itself. We’re not. Too bad.

Recently, government accountability nonprofit American Oversight obtained nearly 10,000 pages of memos and emails from the United States Postal Service. The documents dealt with the USPS’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike the USPS’s effusive response to this FOIA request, the agency’s response to complaints from employees about the danger they were facing was far more tepid.

These documents were shared with the Washington Post, which highlighted the Postal Service’s scrapped plan to send every American five masks, as well as the internal turmoil that accompanied the spread of the coronavirus.

Apparently, the USPS had second thoughts about its FOIA response following this unflattering nationwide media coverage. It sent a letter to American Oversight asking it to take down every single one of the 10,000 pages it had given the organization.

If you can’t read/see the tweet, it says:

UPDATE: USPS has now requested we pull down the records the agency had previously produced to us under FOIA. We have agreed to remove the records for 24 hours as we wait for USPS to specify which pages it believes should continue to be withheld.

The letter from the USPS said “multiple pages” were meant to be “withheld in full” under unspecified FOIA exemptions. It refused to say which pages were supposed to be withheld. Instead, the USPS demanded the entire set of documents be removed from American Oversight’s website. As seen above, AO refused. It only removed pages that hadn’t already been reported on by other news agencies and asked the USPS to be a bit more specific about which pages it felt should have been withheld.

The Postal Service responded the next day, saying it needed 1,200 pages redacted. That’s the government’s latest offer. For now, most of the 10,000 pages remain offline but still in the possession of American Oversight. 462 of those pages can be viewed online at AO’s site.

The organization is continuing to work with the USPS to determine whether any more pages should be excised from the documents it received. But American Oversight is under no obligation to remove anything just because the USPS meant to withhold them. There’s nothing illegal about possessing documents or other information the government has mistakenly released. This is an unforced error and if anything damaging was inadvertently released, the Postal Service has no one to blame but itself.

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