DHS FOIA Improvements

It wasn’t that long ago that FOIA requests to DHS were a veritable invitation to disaster, as an inadequate number of ill-trained staff did a pretty uniformly bad job of responding, or not responding, to requests. In some components, such as CBP, incompetence and mediocrity are still the norm, but by and large DHS are taking pains to be more user-friendly.

An useful resource is this report (350KB PDF), the revised FOIA Improvement Plan, which lays out both the many problems facing DHS’ processing of FOIA requests, and the many steps being taken to remedy the situation. Of particular use is perhaps the list of component FOIA officers, their addresses, and their phone numbers; in dealing with FOIA requests, as in all aspects of dealing with bureaucracies, sometimes knowing who to ask for, or talk to, makes all the difference in the world.

Particularly interesting (to me) are the statistics on DHS-wide FOIA requests for one unidentified (fiscal?) year, probably 2006. In that year, DHS as a whole made “full releases” in response to 28,631 requests; partial releases to 48,564, denied 894 responses outright, and “found no records” for 11,855 requests.

I’m quite surprised that fully 85% of requests processed had information released in response to them; I would have expected a *much* lower percentage. Even more impressive is the 13% “no records” rate; some quick-and-dirty examinations of FBI FOIA records for past years (found at the excellent, if rarely-updated, Memory Hole) suggests better than a 50% “no records” response for that agency. Then again, the FBI probably isn’t a good or fair comparison, for obvious reasons.

Published in: General, Security | on May 19th, 2007| Comments Off on DHS FOIA Improvements

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