FBI Wants More Than $270,000 To Respond To FOIA Request About Booz Allen

from the pocket-change-for-a-defense-contractor,-but-for-the-rest-of-us... dept

Yes, the federal government has something of a reputation for expecting "padded bills" when it deals with defense contractors, but it would appear that the FBI is trying to do the reverse when someone decided to start investigating the FBI's relationship with giant defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton (famous, among other things, for employing Ed Snowden, and for hyping up "cyberwar" for fun and (mostly) for profit).

Looking to explore Booz Allen's work with the government, the government transparency aficionados over at Muckrock asked various federal and state agencies for details of their contracts with Booz Allen (starting well before the Snowden leaks). Back in March, Muckrock asked a whole bunch of agencies for "Copies of contracts with Booz Allen Hamilton over the past 5 years" and "Any final reports generated and delivered by Booz Allen Hamilton to the agency over the past 5 years." Some agencies did respond without question, including the Air Force and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Other agencies, however, suggested that it would cost quite a bit to get those documents. Leading the list: the FBI. They want over a quarter of a million dollars. Yes. Basically, they want $270,000:

When MuckRock asked the FBI for copies of its contracts with Booz Allen Hamilton and any reports the popular consulting firm may have produced for the bureau in the last five years, a records manager responded with an estimated cost of $267,400. That price is just for the labor of finding and reviewing the documents, and doesn’t include fees for copying or placing the documents on CDs.

That’ll be an extra $9,540 for paper, $2,855 for CD. The total cost, therefore, would be an estimated $277,780 on paper and $271,095 on CD.
If you've got that money to spare, please let Muckrock know. Now, the FOIA process does allow agencies to request money to cover fees, especially if it involves a lot of work/documents. However, it's also quite common, especially for issues of public interest, to do such FOIA searches and delivery for free. As you can see, in this case, there really are a lot of documents. They claim that they found approximately 95,500 -- and rather than considering this a public interest issue, the FBI has classified it as "commercial use" because (the FBI claims, bizarrely) "it seeks information to further the commercial trade, profit interests of the requester." I don't see how that's actually true. That $267,400 is actually the cost of "reviewing" all of those documents (there's another $840 for the search).

Yes, 95,500 documents is a lot. And you could see why they'd want to review the documents before releasing them, but over a quarter of a million dollars just to find out how the FBI spends taxpayer money? That seems a bit crazy.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:28am

    Yo dawg, I hear you want to find out how I spend millions of dollars worth of taxpayers' money. That'll be a cool quarter mil just to find out how much I waste...I mean invest wisely.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 8:47am

    Well, the Feds have to fund their ops somehow, what with the "closure of Government".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    RyanNerd (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:23am

    95,500 pieces of paper

    Now to be fair to the FBI, it is going to cost them quite a bit of money in Black Marking Pens for all the redactions they will need to do.
    At $1 a pen I would say that at least $95,500 will be spent on these pens alone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:30am

    You want them to comply with the law for free?

    What are you? Some sort of pirate? Or a communist?

    A Pirate-Communist?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:45am

    Well look, the FBI is just trying to rewrite (or reinterpret) the FOIA laws to try to hide information. Why not? They've reinterpreted every other law to their benefit...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:59am

    This is the FBI's chance to act as contractor; and government contracts cost at least 3 times as much, take at least twice as long and deliver little of what was promised in th estimate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Watchit (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:07am

    Well if you consider it'll probably take the FBI a couple years to release the info anyway it's only about 70k a year! Standard salary for a government worker isn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:17am

    In the Not So Popular Press

    This is commonly know today as a Pay Wall although
    in more feudal times past a moat.
    If .99 cents per month for access to everything
    can reduce your readership by 90% imagine the
    salutary effects of $2.91 per document.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Berenerd (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:54am

    In a world where the NSA can store all our information....

    Why is it so hard for people to search for documents? How hard is it to type search phrases into a computer and hit enter? For god sakes, is everything still on microfiche?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 11:04am

    just more 'fee speech'...

    Big Bother is always looking out for us, and simply took the 'r' out of 'free speech'...

    hell, the only thing worth anything are things we spend money on, if that information was free, it was obviously worthless; now, its priceless ! ! !

    obviously, 'our' (sic) gummint is getting increasingly annoyed with pesky citizens filing FOIA requests, and are slow-walking and otherwise refusing all requests simply because they can...

    WHO -and what army- are going to 'force' them to follow the few pitiful laws we have left on the books for the benefit of us lowly citizens ? ? ?

    NONE of 'our' (sic) leaders in the administration or kongress, that is certain...

    unless/until we are in the streets waving pitchforks and torches, ain't NO ONE in power going to comply with such impertinent requests...

    the *nerve*: mere citizens asking/begging for public information, *who* do they think they are, the 1% ? ? ?

    seriously, SHOULDN'T all of the actions taken to conform to THE LAW on FOIA be 'built-in' to their budgets, since it is a function they 'have to' do (when they can't lie or worm out of it) ? ? ?

    *BESIDES* the factoid (knowing nothing about the original law) that having FOIA requests be 'self-funding' kind of defeats the purpose of them (oh, i get it now, the old 'feature-not-a-bug' trick), i do not trust the feebs (OR ANY GUMMINT AGENCY) to NOT be lying their fat asses off in numerous ways...

    there *may* be 95 000+ dox on booz, or there may be 1000 relevant dox, with 94 000+ tacked on for good measure which only tangentially name booz/etc... The They (tm) have been known to drown requesters with tons of papers so they can't find the *one* they need...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 11:47am

    no wonder the cost of an actual contract is in the tens of millions if it takes $250,000+ just to look up the paper work!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Bryan (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 11:49am

    Commercial Interest

    -- and rather than considering this a public interest issue, the FBI has classified it as "commercial use" because (the FBI claims, bizarrely) "it seeks information to further the commercial trade, profit interests of the requester."


    Well, Muckrock is in the business of FOIA requests, so every FOIA request it makes furthers its commercial trade...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Wolfy, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 11:55am

    This is just the FBI's way of asking for a bribe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 12:39pm

    Too Big To FOIA

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    Isn't it obvious? The $270,000 is to pay for the government to hire a contractor (probably Booz Allen) to go through the records to answer the FOIA req.

    Let's hope that contract gets added in to the report, otherwise the government would have to hire another contractor to do that in an infinite recursion of contractors.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Booz Allen Admin, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:16pm

    Pay me

    I'd be happy to get this money and give you all the documents you want. Please contact me at: nsaadmin22@boozallen.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:32pm

    And for all that money you'd get 270,000 pages of black ink, I'll warrant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Oct 2nd, 2013 @ 2:28am

    Re:

    Well, even the communists look poorly on piracy. Look at those poor Greenpeace activists...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2013 @ 4:10am

    Re: 95,500 pieces of paper

    Just send a stack of blank paper and a 55 gallon drum of black paint.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This