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FOIA News: 'Cuban Twitter' fallout found relief in FOIA's glacial pace

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

'Cuban Twitter' fallout found relief in FOIA's glacial pace

By Jack Gillum, Associated Press, Apr. 11, 2016

As U.S. officials dealt with the fallout of the government's once-secret "Cuban Twitter" program, they had one thing on their side: notorious delays in the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The government didn't have copies of the documents, which formed the basis of an Associated Press investigation detailing a program on which taxpayers spent millions. But officials were worried that asking the contractor to hand over copies would risk making the details even more public.

"The risk is that it gets FOIA'd later. FOIA will take six months," said Mark Lopes, a former senior official with the U.S. Agency for International Development. "I say yes so we get through the next week, six months from now when FOIA comes out, this will all be over?"

USAID's calculus — realizing that the nation's public-records law can be so slow as to border on unusable — comes amid new data showing that delays to process requests from the public or journalists worsened under the Obama administration. Last year, the government also set a record for coming up short in finding documents.

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