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FBI Is the Worst FOIA Performer 92

krou writes "The National Security Archive at George Washington University has awarded its 2009 Rosemary Award to the FBI for worst freedom of information performance (PDF of the award). Previous winners have been the CIA and the Treasury. The NSA notes that 'The FBI's reports to Congress show that the Bureau is unable to find any records in response to two-thirds of its incoming FOIA requests on average over the past four years, when the other major government agencies averaged only a 13% "no records" response to public requests.' The FBI's explanation, according to the NSA, is that 'files are indexed only by reference terms that have to be manually applied by individual agents,' and even then, 'agents don't always index all relevant terms.' Furthermore, 'unless a requester specifically asks for a broader search, the FBI will only look in a central database of electronic file names at FBI headquarters in Washington.' Any search will therefore 'miss any internal or cross-references to people who are not the subject of an investigation, any records stored at other FBI offices around the country, and any records created before 1970.'"
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FBI Is the Worst FOIA Performer

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  • Not too surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @10:03AM (#27180099)
    The FBI has been one of the most technophobic federal agencies, if not THE most, being one of the last to finally get computers. Their regional offices do not coordinate with each other, so that an investigation into a New Orleans drug trafficking network will have no way of knowing about an investigation into a Seattle drug trafficking network involving the same people (which actually happened, IIRC). And it's only been since after 9/11 that they've really tried to have people at the HQ try to put pieces to together. Their focus has been on having field agents run investigations, not analysts like myself. That's just my $.02 anyway, YMMV, etc.
  • by Aristophrenia ( 917761 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @10:11AM (#27180153)
    You would think that for an agency, that according to its name, deals with investigations that they would be a bit better at, well, investigating? Makes me wonder how they keep track of things internally as well. All that aside, maybe they should change their priorities. Perhaps putting number 10 a little high up to, you know, successfully perform the FBI's mission. 1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack 2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage 3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes 4. Combat public corruption at all levels 5. Protect civil rights 6. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises 7. Combat major white-collar crime 8. Combat significant violent crime 9. Support federal, state, local and international partners 10. Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI's mission Taken from []
  • Re:Search: X-Files (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dolohov ( 114209 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @10:38AM (#27180361)

    I know this is a joke, but I do wonder how many FOIA requests the FBI gets on subjects that they really don't have information on: UFOs, Batboy, etc. Do trash requests like that get counted?

  • Also... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cirby ( 2599 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @10:47AM (#27180495)

    They can't return anything from an FOIA request if they don't have anything on you.

    I had a friend who was absolutely certain that the FBI had a bunch of stuff on him. He just knew that they were keeping tabs on him so they could "do something" if he ever got out of line.

    The thing is, he'd never done anything. No criminal record, no tax issues, no affiliations with any group. He had some extremely mild anti-tax and anti-bureaucracy views, but didn't even talk about them that much, and never acted on them.

    So when he filed his FOIA request for all records, he got back nothing. Which made him even MORE paranoid. So he filed another one, for all surveillance tapes and records that they'd "hidden" the first time.

    I think he ended up filing three or four FOIA requests, until someone from the FBI came around and explained, very carefully, that he really wasn't very interesting.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.