So.. one of the things we do here at The Smokey Wire is to learn from each other. Today is our first published FOIA. I asked USDA and CEQ for FOIAs on the fire retardant issue, because I was curious as to who was calling the shots for the Admin position and what their backgrounds were to be able to make those kinds of calls. Remember at the time, we didn’t know whether the judge would enjoin fire retardant while the FS was applying for a permit, estimated to be 2-3 years.
Some people in the emails I know, some people I’ve heard of, and some were a surprise. Please bear with me, as there are several things about this which are above my pay grade. Also, if I got this story wrong, please correct me in the comments or send me an email. I don’t reveal sources and I really want to get the story right.
First, it seems that key people involved were with White House NSC, the National Security Council:
The National Security Council (NSC) is the President’s principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his or her senior advisors and cabinet officials. Since its inception under President Truman, the Council’s function has been to advise and assist the President and to coordinate matters of national security among government agencies.
If so, I guess fire retardant is related to national security.. but wouldn’t almost everything fit in the broader scope of “national security” then? It’s pretty cool that our humble world has come to the attention of the “big guns” (so to speak),” but folks could wonder “why, why now, and do these people know anything about wildfire? And shouldn’t there be something more directly related to National Security for them to work on?”
So I’m quite puzzled, and maybe you good folks at TSW can help me out.
Second, how do different agencies use “deliberative process privilege”? Is this consistent across agencies/levels? And why are some names and emails in and others blocked out? I’m hoping our legal minds at TSW will have a breadth of experience in this.
Third, I did not want to bring Scott Streater’s article-related drama up in this, but it turned up. It’s interesting to see how things work at White House with media, at least with some media, for some things.
Fourth, I worked closely with CEQ when I worked at the Office of Science and Techology Policy during the Clinton Administration. In fact, the interagency task force I co-led was chaired by CEQ and OSTP. As I recall, at that time, CEQ mostly focused on NEPA. It’s interesting that fire retardant doesn’t seem to have a NEPA nexus, it’s more of a Clean Water Act thing. So it’s interesting how much CEQ seems to be in the weeds of FS policy right now. I’ll go out on a limb here.. I don’t think that having people make decisions who don’t really know about the issue is a good idea for the country.
I’m still waiting on my CEQ FOIA, last I heard it was going through some kind of interagency approval process. Enjoy!