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1. A number of factors related to agency processing,
recordkeeping and reporting make it difficult to determine the
Ten Oldest FOIA Requests pending throughout the entire Federal
Government. This Audit is limited to 35 agencies that account
for over 97% of all FOIA requests received, but some agencies
are not represented. Further, decentralization within agencies,
the virtually unmonitored referral system, and recordkeeping limitations
made it difficult for each of those agencies to determine with
complete accuracy their own Ten Oldest FOIA Requests. The requests
included in this Audit Report are those that the agencies themselves
have identified as their ten oldest "currently being processed
or held pending coordination with other agencies." The Archive
has excluded from this list of the oldest of the oldest those
requests that it has learned already have been filled. In addition,
where apparent from the request, the Archive has calculated the
age of the requests on this list of the oldest of the oldest from
the date the request was referred to the agency that produced
the request, which in some cases is several years after the date
the request was originally submitted by the requester.
2. Individual FOIA annual reports are required
by E-FOIA to be available on each agency's own Web site. See 5
U.S.C. Sec. 552(e)(2). Alternatively, the annual reports are all
collected on the DOJ Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/04foia/04_6.html
and in a database assembled by the Public Citizen Litigation Group
3. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(e), as amended by
Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996, 5 U.S.C.A.
§ 552(e) (West Supp. 1997).
4. H.R. Rep. No. 104-795, at 27-29 (1996) (emphasis
5. The first of these GAO studies primarily
focused on (1) the E-FOIA requirement to make certain categories
of information available to the public electronically, and (2)
the quality of the annual FOIA reports that are required to be
prepared after the end of each fiscal year by all agencies. Progress
in Implementing the 1996 Electronic Freedom of Information Act
Amendments (March 2001). The second report focused more heavily
on processing times and the quality of the annual FOIA reports
prepared by each agency and department. Update on the Implementation
of the 1996 Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments (August
2002). The third report focused on the impact of Attorney General's
October 12, 2001 Memorandum on FOIA processing. Agency Views on
Changes Resulting from New Administration Policy (September 2003).
Among GAO's findings after review of the agency statutorily-mandated
annual reports of FOIA statistics was that they suffer from poor
data quality and other reporting discrepancies. 2002 GAO Report
6. The House Report accompanying the 1996 Amendments
to the FOIA explains "[t]he Committee elected to use medians
as a statistical measure because of their appropriateness when
the measure being summarized does not have a normal distribution,
or when a few cases of extreme value would skew an average. For
example, a few requests for excessively large numbers of documents
could artificially inflate the average time taken to fill a request."
H.R. Rep. No. 104-795, at 29 (1996).
7. Efforts at reducing the burden of responding
to FOIA requests are becoming more common in the Federal Government.
For example, the Office of Foreign Asset Control of the Department
of Treasury has decided to routinely publish information about
civil penalties and informal settlements. In response to comments
that the information is available under FOIA, OFAC stated that
it "has found, however, that processing FOIA requests for
this type of information on an ad hoc basis is not the most efficient
use of its limited resources." 68 Fed. Reg. 6820, 6821 (Feb.
8. The EPA FOIA Taskforce Report is available
at http://www.epa.gov/foia/docs/Finaltaskforce.pdf (reviewed on
September 22, 2003).
9. As noted in endnote i, the requests included
in this Audit Report are those that the agencies themselves have
identified as their ten oldest "currently being processed
or held pending coordination with other agencies." Please
see the individual agency summaries for additional information
concerning the scope of the search and limitations placed on the
request by the Archive and/or individual agencies.