EFF Launches Awards Program For Most Outrageous Failures In FOIA Responses

from the send-in-your-nominations-now dept

We’ve written many stories about ridiculous responses to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests (as well as similar state and local law requests) over the years. I’ve personally filed a few FOIA requests over the years and have never seen one sufficiently answered in the time limit required by the law. These days, it’s becoming all too common for people to have to go to court to actually get such public records requests answered. Of course, filing a lawsuit is not easy or cheap, and unless you’re the ACLU, EFF or Jason Leopold (the so-called “FOIA terrorist”), not many people actually go that far. And that’s what the various government agencies depend on. I currently have two outstanding FOIA requests — one involving Homeland Security which has simply stopped responding to repeated requests for an update (after nearly a year) and a second one involving a state government agency that is demanding thousands of dollars for a very simple request. I imagine I’ll have more to say on both of those eventually.

In the meantime, the EFF has decided to do something beyond just suing: naming and shaming the most egregious violators (and celebrating those who filed the requests). EFF has announced its “Foilies” awards for “the most outrageous responses to Freedom of Information Act and state open records act requests.” Anyone is free to nominate examples, even if you weren’t the one who made the request. You just need to be able to point to the details of the request (whether the specific responses and/or news stories about them):

You should feel free to name your own Foilies categories. For example, if the Department of Defense claimed a national security exemption in response to your FOIA request for lunch menus, you might suggest a category for ?America?s Most Dangerous Cafeteria.? But we also have several categories already in mind, such as:

Absurdly Over-Redacted Documents

Egregious Copying Fees

Extraordinarily Long Wait for Records

Silly Legal Arguments in Public Records Lawsuits

Wrongest-Headed Anti-transparency Legislation

Gratuitous Glomars

The details for how to nominate are pretty simple:

How to Submit a Nomination: Send nominations to foilies@eff.org with ?FOILIES 2015 NOMINATION? in the subject line. You can nominate multiple entries in a single email, just make sure to enumerate the nominations so we can easily separate them.

Format: Each nomination should look like this:

Category: One line category title

Description: No more than 200 words succinctly explaining the public records issue and why it deserves a Foilie. Please include this in the body of the email. (We?ll use this to winnow down the nominations and may cite the text during Sunshine Week.)

Links: Include any links to stories, records, or other information that will help us better understand the issue if we decide to read beyond the 200-word description.

Attachments: If you have the original FOIA/public records request and subsequent correspondence to support the nomination, please include it with the email (within reason: if it?s larger than 10mb, just include the most important parts). We may seek this information out separately later.

Attribution: Let us know if we can attribute the nomination (including the description text) to you and, if so, how you would like to be named (name, Twitter handle, etc.).

Contact details: Include a way for us to reach you with further questions. This information will remain confidential.

Help further the cause of transparent and accountable government by contributing to this effort and demonstrating the ridiculous contortions the government goes through in trying to block such efforts.

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Companies: eff

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Comments on “EFF Launches Awards Program For Most Outrageous Failures In FOIA Responses”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not so, the best tyrannies are hidden under the guise of democracy, the best dictatorships under the guise of ‘Freedom for all’.

It’s much more effective to have an ultimately useless way for people to influence or contact ‘their’ government, than to bluntly let the public know that doing so is pointless, and that those they thought were elected to represent and serve them in fact have interest only in representing their own interests, and ruling those ‘below’ them.

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