The DIA Tries to Tackle the FOIA, A Decade Too Late

Among researchers who use the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is notorious for the glacial slowness with which they process requests. Very few large agencies manage to consistently hit the laughable twenty-business-day deadline laid down in the law, but most other busy agencies – such as the FBI – at least manage to occasionally process something with some semblance of speed.

Not so the fine men and women at DIA. They, I have it on good authority, sometimes take three years just to forward requests to the correct – hell, any! – internal division. (Lest you think this is hyperbole, you beautiful and innocent child, I recently recieved a phone call from someone at DIA, saying they had just received a FOIA request of mine that was dated forty-nine months prior, and wanting to know if that was really the correct date. Yes, I told him – and added that his agency had at least one older request of mine still pending.) This makes attempting to do any sort of meaningful research via the FOIA there extremely difficult. You see something in the news, you file a FOIA request, and four or five or six or maybe seven years later you get a response, by which time nobody cares anymore, more often than not.

Anyway, there are faint signs that Mount Diafoipa may be experiencing some quiet seismic activity these days. Does this suggest the more timely ejection of released records might be forthcoming? I wouldn’t hold my breath. But, still…

I received a letter last week from the DIA, assuring me that “our office is committed to processing your requests as soon as possible”, and that DIA will “process your requests as soon as possible”. You can forgive me if I was a bit skeptical about this, obviously. However, the letter also included the status of two of my three outstanding requests, noting that they are “awaiting response” from some responsible party or another. A key notes that after such responses are received, these requests will move to a new pile, the “Ready to Work Queue”, from whence someone will eventually begin to process the records in question for eventual release to me. Maybe. Someday. If they feel like it.

At the time of the writing, there were about 480 requests in the “Awaiting Response Queue”, and mine were about halfway along, about thirty-five numbers apart.

Those two requests were made over a year apart, and are over three and four years old, respectively. And they’re in the middleof the queue.

I extrapolate a response to the first request – keep in mind, it has to wind it’s way to the front of the “Awaiting Response Queue”, then get shuffled to the back of the “Ready to Work Queue” – in late 2015, and the second in late 2016 or early 2017, assuming I don’t have to file appeals, there are no fee disputes, et cetera. (Not to be too much of a cocktease, but that second, ca. 2017 release, should be awesome. Hopefully worth-the-wait awesome. We’ll see.)

Not exactly stellar responsiveness. I mean, if they process their own in-house tasking at the same glacial speed they process their FOIA requests, then by my math they’re going to work out Iraq’s lack of WMD capability… next spring. Usama bin Laden’s position at the Battle of Tora Bora… next fall. The cause of the sinking of that South Korean warship… around 2019. And they’ll have evaluated Iran’s present nuclear capability, or lack thereof… just in time to influence the 2020 presidential elections.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on November 12th, 2010| Comments Off on The DIA Tries to Tackle the FOIA, A Decade Too Late

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