FOIA Advisor

Q&A (2019)

Q&A: Stormy weather

Q&A (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q. I filed a FOIA with NOAA in March of last year and the FOIA request has yet to be fulfilled. I reached out to inquire about the delay, taking great pains to be very patient with the process. If possible, I'd like to know how to proceed in filing an official complaint. 

A. If by "official complaint" you mean filing a lawsuit, the FOIA provides four options as to where that suit may be filed: (1) in the federal district in which you live; (2) in the federal district where you have your principal place of business; (3) in the federal district in which the agency records are located; or (4) in the District of Columbia.  You may file a complaint with or without the assistance of an attorney.  If you wish to file a lawsuit by yourself, for example in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, see the following court guidance on how to proceed:   https://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/pro-se-help.  

Short of a lawsuit, you can request assistance from the Office of Government Information Services, aka the "FOIA Ombudsman," which is a component of the National Archives and Records Administration.  Here are instructions from OGIS about how to file a request for assistance:  https://www.archives.gov/ogis/mediation-program/request-assistance.

[P.S. An agency’s FOIA Public Liaison also may be a useful resource for requesters who encounter issues with their requests. In this case, the requester noted an extensive history of interactions with agency personnel, which was omitted from the original post.]

Q&A: In the beginning . . .

Q&A (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q. When was the first FOIA request submitted? To which agency? And what records were sought?

A. I would guess that the first request was submitted on July 4, 1967, when the statute became effective. Given the passage of fifty-plus years, however, I doubt any documents exist that could definitively answer that or your other related questions — or if they do exist, they are buried within the National Archives.

Q&A: I'm sticking with the Union

Q&A (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q. Is a government contractor's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) exempt from FOIA?

A. Maybe. If the CBA is already in the public domain, then it is not exempt. If the CBA is not in public domain and it was was submitted to a federal agency as part of a contract proposal, the CBA would be fully exempt under Exemption 3 if the proposal was not successful. If the proposal was successful, however, Exemption 3 would protect any portion of the proposal that is not set forth or incorporated by reference in the contract   See generally OIP's guidance on contract proposals.

If Exemption 3 does not resolve the matter, Exemption 4 would certainly be in play, particularly if the CBA includes information such labor rates.  The agency would then need to initiate the "submitter notice" process per Executive Order 12600 and agency regulations.

Q&A: The Longest Day?

Q&A (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q. I requested the results of an “AR 15-6” investigation by the U.S. Army in July 2018. How long does a FOIA request generally take?

A.  If an AR 15-6 investigation is as detailed as a typical federal prosecution file, then the Army’s delayed response is unsurprising.  I cannot accurately predict, however, how much longer it might take.  Note that the Army receives approximately 25,000 requests annually.  Although many of them are "simple" requests that closed within two months, "complex" requests such as yours invariably will take longer. You might consider contacting the Army’s FOIA Requester Service Center at (571) 515-0306. If you are not satisfied with the response from this center, contact the Army FOIA Public Liaison, Alecia Bolling, at (571) 515-0306.