FOIA Hell at the Department of State

In the summer of 2008, I – and others, it appears – made a FOIA request to the Department of State for a couple of pages from “Diplopedia”, the department’s internal wiki.

At the same time, I made a request for pages on the same handful of topics to the ODNI, regarding the better-known “Intellipedia” system of wikis.

The plan was to do a compare-and-contrast thing, see what the DOS wiki had to say on certain subjects compared to the wikis of the intelligence community – and Wikipedia.

Fast forward two requests, several phone calls, one administrative appeal, and more than four years, and…

…I finally got a response from the Department of State today. (Still nothing from the ODNI. I believe that my request to them is their oldest open FOIA case, but I may be wrong.)

Guess what the DOS sent me? Eight screenshots from, wait for it…

Intellipedia.

And those pages in Intellipedia are verbatim imports from Wikipedia; they even include a disclaimer to that effect.

Yay Wikipedia. I guess. But more to the point… three years to release (in full) eight screenshots? (The DOS denied my original 2008 request in full, because they are malingering imbeciles. After being lied to repeatedly, they created a new FOIA “case” in late 2009.)

Strangely, the screenshots are marked as having been reviewed for release in October 2011. They were sent to me in December, 2012. What on earth took the Department of State fourteen months, in the interim? I have no idea. I doubt they do, either.

The only upside to this laughable debacle is that no fees were assessed for their, ahem, timely and responsive service.

Oh, and a little note here, to the State Department, particularly the folks from the Office of Information Programs and Services, on the offhand chance you folks might stumble across this: I’m not posting copies of your released documents here, not just because blurry sixth-generation photocopies of screenshots of Wikipedia content are boring as hell, but because you neglected to redact several small things in the release that you really should have. Tsk, tsk…

Published in: Geekiness, Security | on January 7th, 2013| 1 Comment »

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  1. On 1/7/2013 at 10:55 am Nemo Said:

    If anyone’s interested, the ODNI request isn’t even my oldest outstanding FOIA request – two agencies, including the Army, have requests of mine open from 2007, and several agencies have requests from the first half of 2008 still waiting to be processed. Yay for responsiveness, huh?

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