The State Department Has Taken Over Three Years On A FOIA Request About How Long It Takes To Process FOIA Requests

from the they're-just-messing-with-us dept

Back in 2013, a young Shawn Musgrave filed a FOIA request with the State Department for its cables regarding former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. To his surprise, he was given an estimated completion date (ECD) of December 2015 — a full 18 months of processing time.

Curious about where the agency got that oddly specific number from — and with plenty of time on his hands — Shawn filed a follow-up request for any documentation outlining State’s methodology for estimating FOIA completion dates. This is on August 5th, 2013, and he gets an acknowledgement back August 8th, just three days later.

Don’t get used to that kind of timeliness.

Two months later, he’s given his first ECD for this request — December 2013.

Only a few months of processing, perfectly reasonable for operational manuals that FOIA officers should have easily accessible.

Except apparently not, because come December, he’s given a new ECD — May 2014.

Well, okay, we should cut them some slack — as they said, there are extenuating factors, and if they feel they need another five months, that shouldn’t be too big of a deal, so long as they-

Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.

December 2014. A full year since the initial filing. Alright, not great, but how much longer could it take, really?

Oh, come on! Now you’re just being ridiculous, State — the original ECD for the Thatcher docs was February 2015. How could this be a month harder to process than that? Why not just go ahead and take the rest of the year if you’re feeling swamped.

Wait, no, it was a joke, don’t-

Nooooooo. Why are you doing this? Are you just messing with us?

You are just messing us, aren’t you!

Come on, that’s not even a date!

Alright, that’s better.

Wait, no it’s not, that’s actually much worse — how could you possibly need until June? You finally released the Thatcher docs that started this whole mess in May!

… Are we dead? Is this Hell?


It’s October 2016. Shawn Musgrave is a sadder and a wiser man. And we are still waiting for the State Department to tell us how long it takes to process its FOIA requests.

Maybe we’ll wait forever. Maybe we’ve always been waiting.

Or maybe the State Department can hire some new FOIA officers already. Jeez.

Republished from Muckrock

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Comments on “The State Department Has Taken Over Three Years On A FOIA Request About How Long It Takes To Process FOIA Requests”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But how many years would it take . . .

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: the FOIA request is recursive, and the State department is tackling it with a linear algorithm. Therefore, each time they set a new completion date, they’ve just increased the amount of work needing to be done to answer the question. Until they change their approach, this is a divide by zero issue.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, it would be nice if voters were intelligent and voted in their (and everyone’s) best interests.

But they don’t.

Half the voters are below average intelligence. They like a reality TV based election system. As long as the candidates seem angry about the same things and make them feel good about their miserable lives.

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