FOIA Request for Emails Related to the Official Whitehouse Flickr Photostream

I submitted the following Freedom of Information Act request to the White House today via US Mail. I modeled it after another Whitehouse FOIA request that I found online here. I’ve sent two flickrmails now requesting information regarding the Offical Whitehouse photostream on Flickr to the Whitehouse account on Flickr and have received no response. Hopefully the Whitehouse, in the spirit of Obama’s oft-campaigned promise of transparency, will choose to provide the information requested based on this formal written request. I’m writing to try and discover any correspondence that may have taken place around Flickr’s decision to delete user Shepherd Johnson’s Flickr account after he posted comments critical of President Obama on the official Whitehouse photostream.

FOIA Officer Office of Administration
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503


Fee benefit requested
Fee waiver requested
Expedited processing requested

Dear FOIA Officer:

Pursuant to the federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I request access to and copies of:

All email correspondence to and from representatives of the White House and Yahoo, Inc. regarding the establishment, service and maintenance of the Official Whitehouse photostream on Flickr, Yahoo Inc.’s photo sharing service. I would also like to receive the name and contact information of the primary individual responsible for the maintenance of this Flickr account.

The scope of this request is for documents created between January 20 and September 15, 2009.

I would like to receive the information in electronic format.

As a representative of the news media I am only required to pay for the direct cost of duplication after the first 100 pages.

Through this request, I am gathering information on a case of censorship involving the Flickr account deletion of Flickr user Shepherd Johnson who found his Flickr account deleted after posting comments critical of the President on the Official Whitehouse Flickrstream.

I am seeking this information as an independent blogger for dissemination to the general public.

Release of the information is in the public interest because it will contribute significantly to public understanding of the President’s use of social media as a communications strategy as well as how the White House handles critical commentary through social media channels.

I hope that as the President’s office, in the spirit of Obama’s oft-campaigned promise of transparency, will see fit to honor this information request.

If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act. I will also expect you to release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. I, of course, reserve the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to deny a waiver of fees.

As I am making this request as a journalist and this information is of timely value, I would appreciate your communicating with me by telephone, rather than by mail, if you have questions regarding this request.

Please provide expedited processing of this request which concerns a matter of urgency.

I look forward to your reply within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Thank you for your assistance.


Thomas Hawk

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  1. In terms of disclosing the “purpose” of your request, you should be careful. If the information is sought for possible litigation, anticipated litigation, etc. it could serve to be an exemption to the release of information. Give them as little as possible and I definitely recommend searching the CREW and Judicial Watch websites to see how they have FOIA’d the Executive Office of The White House and had to actually follow through with litigation to get those public records. If you model your requests after theirs, you’ll set yourself up for easier litigation if you need to follow through with it. Good luck.

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  3. I don’t think that you are going to find anything, but it will be amazing if you do. A mini-Flickr scandal for handing out political favors. More than likely it was a Flickr employee or a political groupie who banned him over it to begin with.

  4. I don’t know, TH. I really don’t think writing this blog qualifies you to act as a representative of the press when asking for documents.

    But best of luck in the crusade!

  5. @Peter James Zielinski, TH status as a rep of the press would only deal with the fee exemption and priority processing. Regardless, he’s ENTITLED to the public records under FOIA. You don’t even have to provide your name. Public records are exactly that, PUBLIC. Whether he gets the information he’s seeking and whether it’s timely will be the question.