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.