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Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

The Ten Oldest Pending FOIA Requests

The National Security Archive
Freedom of Information Act Audit

Press Release
Executive Summary
The Ten Oldest FOIA Requests in the Federal Government
Chart - Agency Response Times
Table - Oldest Outstanding FOIA Requests
Findings Regarding The Ten Oldest FOIA Requests and FOIA Backlogs
Summary Discussion of Individual Agencies
Update on Phase One: The Ashcroft Memorandum
FOIA Audit Phase One: The Ashcroft Memo



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Recordkeeping Issues - DOC's FOIA Office indicated that it had to contact each of the Department's components in order to assemble the collection of the Ten Oldest FOIA Requests.
Ten Oldest - DOC responded within 19 business days with requests dating from December 28, 1993 to December 12, 2000. Seven of these were from the last quarter of 2000 and were primarily from environmental and public interest organizations. The oldest request relates to records that pertain to export controls on cryptography and includes an extensive list of the issues and types of records encompassed within the request. It appears on its face quite complex. The second oldest request is also quite complex, detailing 22 names, subjects, companies and issues relating to Loral Space and Communications Ltd. (which was the subject of an export violation investigation during the Clinton Administration) about which records are sought. The remaining requests concern the Atlantic Pelagic Fisheries, Ocean Dunes Off Highway Vehicle Area and Pismo State Beach in San Luis Obispo County California, a contract with Allied Signal, the Marble Mountain Ranch and its owners, applications and pre-application communications by Sierra Pacific Industries for a Habitat Conservation Plan, the status and number of bluefin tuna and the number of annual fishing permits issued, and observer data from the 2000 Experimental Scallop Fishery.
Workload Statistics - Although DOC's reported statistics from 1998 through 2002 indicate that the agency has received a decreasing number of FOIA requests (down 9.5% from 2366 in 1998 to 2142 in 2002), some of the interim years had lower numbers than 1998 or 2002. The number processed each year has remained close to the number received and also has decreased (down 9.6% from 2283 processed in 1998 to 2063 processed in 2002), although some of the interim years had lower numbers than 1998 or 2002. DOC's processing rate per year - a comparison of the number processed to the number received - decreased from 96.49% in 1998 to 96.31% in 2002.
Backlog Statistics - DOC's backlog of pending FOIA requests has increased (from 157 FOIA requests pending at the end of 1998 to 298 FOIA requests pending at the end of 2002). DOC's backlog as a percentage of FOIA requests processed each year has increased from 6.88% in 1998 to 14.44% in 2002. Its backlog rate per year -- a comparison of the number of requests pending at the end of the year to the number received during that year -- has increased from 3.13% in 1998 to 13.91% in 2002.
Processing Time - Under its two track system, DOC reported processing times within the statutory timeframes for simple requests (12 days in 2002). Processing times for complex requests have ranged from 30-54 days in the 1998-2002 period, with 45 days reported for 2002. Expedited requests have a median processing time range of 3-8 days over the 1998-2002 time period, with none reported for 2000 or 2002. The backlogged requests are reported as pending for a median of 55 days. As demonstrated by the Ten Oldest FOIA Requests provided, however, some requests wait far longer; some of the Ten Oldest FOIA Requests have been pending at least 2400 business days.



DOC Response Letter

DOC March 24, 1995 Letter

DOC July 17, 1998 Letter

DOC September 21, 2000 Letter

DOC October 2, 2000 Letter

DOC October 13, 2000 Letter

DOC October 30, 2000 (1) Letter

DOC October 30, 2000 (2) Letter

DOC November 3, 2000 Letter

DOC November 17, 2000 Letter

DOC December 12, 2000 Letter


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