|In a touching ceremony, President Obama presents his special commemorative gift to the G8 Leaders at Camp David|
BackgroundCamp David is seldom in the news, which is why most of the posts on this blog are about things that happened many years ago. So when it was announced last year that the 2012 G8 Summit was moving from Chicago to Camp David, I decided I would cover it in glorious detail. And no detail would be too small as far as I was concerned.
I wrote about the many preparations in nearby Thurmont along with planned protests and security measures. I tracked down photos of the trailers used to temporarily hold the arriving G8 Leaders at Dulles airport. I found photos of the media center and the media bus. I reported on what the leaders did in their spare time and the spouses' luncheon and tour at the White House. I wrote about the leaders and their various meetings. I embedded videos of the summit and created a separate blog post for all of the photos I found on U.S. and foreign websites.
Even after National Security Adviser Tom Donilon jokingly declared that the cabin allocation system for the G8 Leaders was classified, I was able to figure it out after several months of effort.
The G8 GiftIt is customary for the host leader to present the other G8 leaders with a commemorative gift at the end of the summit. When the summit was originally scheduled to be held in Chicago, local company R.S. Owens proudly announced they were chosen to create a commemorative gift representing a famous Chicago landmark.
Did President Obama end up giving the leaders the Chicago-themed gift or did he go with the more traditional Camp David jacket? I just had to find out. When CBS reporter Peter Maer tweeted the following, I figured my answer was only moments away:
NOTHING! No reply from @petermaercbs. No follow-up tweet about the parting gifts. I even tried again one year later on May 11th, 2013:
Still, no reply. I tried asking other reporters who were covering the story. I tried asking the White House photographer for a photo of the gift-giving. I even tried asking Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev about the gift. Nyet.
A couple weeks after the G8 Summit, I submitted a simple FOIA request with the State Department asking what the G8 gift was. I figured it would take only a quick phone call to the State Department's G8 Summit "Visit Officer" to get the answer. But no answer came. Below is a chart of the average response time for FOIA requests to the State Department in 2012, courtesy of FOIA.gov.
By all accounts, I should have received an answer by the end of last summer. I have followed up with the State Department several times since then asking about the status. Their replies:
December 2012: "The case is still open. The case has been assigned to an analyst and searches have gone out to the appropriate bureaus."
March 2013: "We apologize for the delay in responding to your request. The State Department’s Freedom of Information Office is experiencing a backlog of requests and a delay in responding to FOIA requests. A copy of your request has been forwarded to the appropriate office for status. Information will be provided as it becomes available. We appreciate your continued patience during this process."
May 2013: "The Department’s search of its Central Foreign Records resulted in a no document find pertaining to your request for material in the subject case. There is still pending a request for documents within the Department. Once this office is in receipt of a response, you will be informed of the results."
So there you have it. I will update this blog post if and when I get a reply.
Gifts from Past G8 SummitsHere are the gifts from the past four G8 Summits:
2011 - France - Leaders received a letter opener in a special G8 edition presentation box with ‘‘G8 France 2011, Nouveau Monde, Nouvelles Idees’’ and shape of the Eiffel Tower engraved along with a variety of other gifts (Hermes scarf, gold coin, chocolates, pen, lighter, glassware, and more)
2010 - Canada - A local artist handcrafted bowls out of sugar maple for each of the G8 leaders.
2009 - Italy - Monogrammed Pineider Leather briefcases, desk sets and desk pads; monogrammed terrycloth bathrobe, towels, slippers, a tablecloth and napkin set, an official G8 cotton jacket; gold coin, watch, and limited edition rare art books.
2008 - Japan - G8 commemorative coins; vermillion lacquerware sake cups, adorned with a gold mountain cherry blossom and inscribed in gold with their initials
Sources: knotsburls.com; pianki,com; ctvnews.ca; gpo.gov (2008); Reuters; R.S. Owens; FOIA.gov