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The lack of freedom of information

I have had some correspondence from folks asking about the status of my Freedom of Information Act request for the passport issuance records of Stanley Ann Dunham. Let me tell everyone where that is.

I filed the request electronically at the US Department of State Freedom of Information Act web site the end January of 2009. In April I received a letter from the Department of State informing me that my request had been accepted for processing. A case number was assigned.

Curious about how long the request might take, I consulted various online sources. As best I can tell, the Department of State has not complied in recent years with the statutory reporting requirements to Congress as to their backlog and processing time. I have not been able to find any  information on how long a request should take.1

Towards the end of summer I called the FOIA office at DoS and asked them how my request was coming. They told me that it was being processed by the passport query section. When I asked when I should receive the requested information, the person I spoke to said they did not know, but would query the passport section for an answer and that I should call back in a week.

I waited two weeks and called back. No reply from the passport section. The person I spoke to asked me for my phone number and said they would follow up and call me back. A month passed and no call back.

I called again and spoke to a different person, who said that the passport section still hadn’t responded. When I asked when I should expect a response to my query, I was told it could take up to a year.

So as the the new year dawned, I called again. I was told the same story: no response from the passport section and no idea when I should receive a response. I informed the person that I wished to invoke an administrative procedure to resolve their non responsiveness and asked to speak to Patrick D. Scholl, the FOIA liaison. I was told that he was not available but that he would call me. It’s been several days and he hasn’t called.

So that is the sorry tale of your tax dollars at work.

1According an a 2008 Attorney General Report, “…, any agency that had a backlog of FOIA requests or appeals as of the end of Fiscal Year 2007 was required to establish, and post on its Website, backlog reduction goals for Fiscal Years 2008, 2009, and 2010.” This the Department of State hasn’t done.

7 Responses to The lack of freedom of information

  1. avatar
    Hawaiiborn January 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm #

    This is a similar experience to an FOIA request about Flight 93 (debunking that it was shot down on 9/11/2001). Original request was put in October 2008 by a 911 truther; a forum member made a similar request shortly after for the same documents in the same month.

    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=125479
    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=142065

    Its going on 16 months. Yes, this is how slowly our government works.

  2. avatar
    misha January 16, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    SSD claims average 2 years.

  3. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy January 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    I should point out that Christopher Stunk filed his request for essentially the same information in November of 2008 (two months before mine) and had “preliminary results” back his results back last March!

    I guess the way to expedite your request is to sue.

  4. avatar
    Con Rep January 17, 2010 at 4:46 am #

    Did Strunk ever get anything other than that one sheet of paper showing a few heavily redacted 1980’s Honolulu airport entries for SAD?

  5. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy January 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    My understanding is that he got separate responses for his passport query from the Department of State and the airport entries from the Department of Homeland security. What he got from State was never published to my knowledge. While DHS entry information is not available as far back as 1961, passport records are available back to 1925.

  6. avatar
    Con Rep January 18, 2010 at 4:18 am #

    Thanks. I didn’t know Strunk got any info from State.

    By the way, Passport records up to 1925 are accessible to the public through the National Archives, for genealogy purposes.(I found my GF’s passport, and photo, there.)

    The current DOS Passport files (the ones that were accessed illegally in 2008) go back to only 1983.

    The pre-1983 files are stored at the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, MD, but all FOIA requests have to go through the issuing agency (DOS in this case).

    When those records are 50 years old, they’re transferred to the National Archives, but thus far, only the records up through 1925 are accessible to the public.

    Just a little government records trivia…

  7. avatar
    Dick Whitman January 18, 2010 at 7:47 am #

    The State Department is old school. Request a face-to-face meeting.

    Write your Congressional Representative and ask for a meeting. Ask your Congressional Representive to contact the State Department and request a representative attend the meeting to clarify or expand upon the US Government’s response to your FOIA request.