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?

Noooooooooooooo

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

Filed Under: estimates, foia, state department


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 10:59am

    The Vogon approach to administration was meant to be satire, not the real manual

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      Orwell's 1984 was not meant to be a roadmap.

      But we see how that is working out.

      Telescreens with cameras and mics come in: handheld size, tablet size, laptop size, and sixty inch full telescreen size.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:32am

        Re: Re:

        Drinks can can be cut with a knife or scissors, come with various color patches, and can be used to make a nice sliding lens covers, when folded over screen bezels.

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

      • identicon
        I.T. Guy, 12 Oct 2016 @ 12:45pm

        Re: Re:

        1984 has literally and figuratively come and gone. It just took a little while.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Oct 2016 @ 3:23am

        Re: Re:

        I could do with Brave New World being taken as a manual instead. That world at least seemed much more fun.

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

        • icon
          Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 14 Oct 2016 @ 6:17am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Read it again; it is. We might not have the feelies yet but excessive sexualisation, the shift to the consumer society, social alientation... the gang's all here (except the feelies. That's stuck in VR at the moment).

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

    • identicon
      Quiet Lurcker, 12 Oct 2016 @ 4:15pm

      Re:

      Where do you think the Vogons got their ideas from?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:04am

    "And we are still waiting for the State Department to tell us how long it takes to process its FOIA requests."
    Are we? I think we kind of got our answer: too damn long! (So don't even ask)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:04am

    Clinton's mess

    What a mess Clinton left behind - almost by design. She loved being non-transparent, and that's how she designed her State Department to be, too.

    Now let's take a guess how her administration would look? Super transparent....or not?

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 12 Oct 2016 @ 1:33pm

      Re: Clinton's mess

      Oh... about as transparent as what we have now and as will be with The Donald.

      Get ready to grab your ankles Merika.

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:11am

    But how many years would it take . . .

    How many years would it take to process a FOIA request about how long it takes to process a FOIA request about how long it takes to process a FOIA request?

    Probably not O(n).

    But could it be O(n^x) or maybe O( n ^ x ^ y ) ?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 12:26pm

      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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:12am

    Every Nation gets the Government it Deserves!

    Until we stop voting R or D and focusing on the President instead of Congress, this shit will keep on keeping on! Enjoy your day at the polls suckers!

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 12 Oct 2016 @ 12:47pm

      Re:

      Wow!!! You mean it's that easy. Wish someone woulda thought of that sooner. /s

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 12:54pm

      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.

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

      • identicon
        I.T. Guy, 12 Oct 2016 @ 1:40pm

        Re: Re:

        Most voters don't even know there are other candidates as a choice. (LOL'd a little.) The establishment gives you 2 choices. It's obvious to me that neither of these clowns should be the next POTUS.

        So that leaves who? Johnson & Stein.(LOL'd more.)

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 3:50pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm going to vote for myself.
          Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil and I can't bring myself to do that.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 4:02pm

      Re:

      As always thanks for the chuckle Joseph.

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:45am

    I wonder if the State Department outsources FOIA requests to the same company that does Comcast cancellations?

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

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 12:35pm

    Question them, that's bad.
    Question their procedures, that's worse.

    You're already considered trouble when you file a FOIA request.
    Go meta and you're bound to bureaucracy hell.

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

  • identicon
    TCSquirrel, 12 Oct 2016 @ 1:30pm

    Comment pending.
    (ECD) 2 days.

    See you in 3 Years.

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


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