FBI Tells Me It Will Take 475 Days For It To Get Around To Responding To My FOIA Request
from the well-isn't-that-nice dept
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires that federal agencies respond to FOIA requests within 20 days. If it needs more information, the government agency is allowed to wait for you to respond and not count that against the 20 days. The law does provide for a situation where, “in unusual circumstances” the 20 day period can be extended with a specific notice explaining the “unusual circumstances,” but “no such notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension for more than ten working days.”
Back in April, I sent the FBI some FOIA requests concerning the FBI’s public stance on encryption — which is kind of a big deal right now, given that the FBI is giving mixed messages on encryption. Director James Comey is out there pushing the panic button over people encrypting their mobile phones, while older FBI recommendations suggested that encrypting your mobile phone could protect your information from those with malicious intent. So it seemed quite reasonable to find out what kinds of talking points the FBI had put together on encryption, as it seemed rather important to the very timely debate about whether or not tech companies should be forced to backdoor encryption.
I submitted the FOIA requests on March 27th. On September 10th — which is 167 days later — the FBI finally responded, telling me that it expected to get to my request about 300 days later, or approximately 475 days from when it was first submitted. It was addressed (typo-wise) to “God morning.”
We have received your request for an estimated date of completion. The search for records is ongoing or, the search has yielded responsive records and those records have been forwarded to the backlog, where it awaits assignment to a Government Information Specialist (GIS). Estimated dates of completion are based on the median processing time of large requests. Accordingly, the estimated date on which the FBI will complete action on your request is 475 days from the date of your request.
Please contact me if you require further assistance.
In other words, the FBI may finally get back to me sometime in the fall of 2016. While it’s entirely possible that the debate about encryption will still be going on by then, it seems like this tidbit of information would be better served if it could be seen and debated by the public today rather than a year from now, when there’s a good chance the crux of this debate will be over.