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Thursday, March 13, 2008

An Oldie But a Goodie: Oldest Pending FOI Requests

Several federal agencies are running more than 15 years late on public record requests sent under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) when the first President Bush was still in office.

The Energy Department has the tardiest public record request, according to a review by The Hill of annual FOIA reports published by Cabinet-level agencies for the last fiscal year. It still has not answered one request from Dec. 6, 1991, although other departments are not far behind.

The Defense Department has a request pending from May 5, 1992, while the Treasury Department has not answered a request from March 8, 1993.

“Typically, when I file a request for information, I want it this week or this month, not 15 years from now,” said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. He said the decade-old requests are inconsistent with a law that is intended to get information to the public as quickly as possible.

Most FOIA requests are handled much more quickly by agencies, which in some cases are dealing with a significant workload. But the review shows some FOIA requests go unanswered for years, often because they are seen as touching on sensitive national security matters. A lack of resources and scant pressure from Congress in recent years are also seen as factors that have led to years-long FOIA waits.

More here.

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