10/27/13 DHS Watchlisting Enterprise Working Group meeting (OIA)

Jason Smathers filed this request with the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence & Analysis of the United States of America.
Tracking # 14-IAFO-0048 ; 2014-HQAP-00040
Status
Completed

Communications

From: Jason Smathers

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

A copy of all handouts, presenter notes, power point slides, agendas, and recordings of the meeting that took place on Wednesday, October 27, 2013 at NAC18 02-202 concerning the DHS Watchlisting Enterprise Working Group from 10-11am.

I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. The requested documents will be made available to the general public free of charge as part of the public information service at MuckRock.com, processed by a representative of the news media/press and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Jason Smathers

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Nov. 27, 2013. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Nov. 27, 2013. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: I&AFOIA

Mr. Smathers,

Please see attached for acknowledgement of your request to DHS I&A FOIA dated November 27, 2013.

V/R,

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Office
Office of Intelligence and Analysis
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
I&AFOIA@hq.dhs.gov

From: MuckRock

Hello Ms. Waters,

Thank you for your response to this request. For purposes of record keeping and future communication, would your mind clarifying the differences in the assigned reference numbers found in your letter?

They were:

• 14-OIA-0048

• 14-IAFO-0048

Thank you for your help.

From: I&AFOIA

Mr. Smathers,

Please utilize reference number: 14-IAFO-0048 for this request, my apologies for the confusion.

V/R,

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Office
Office of Intelligence and Analysis
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
I&AFOIA@hq.dhs.gov

From: MuckRock

Hello,

A copy of the below FOIA appeal has been sent to the Associate General Counsel (General Law) at the address below. Please confirm receipt of both copies.

Thank you.

=========

FOIA APPEAL

Associate General Counsel (General Law)
US Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Re: 14-OIA-0048 and/or 14-IAFO-0048 (adverse determination letter contains both)

Dear DHS Appeals Authority:

This is an appeal of an adverse determination under the Freedom of Information Act.

On November 27, 2013 I submitted a FOIA request to DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis for "[a] copy of all handouts, presenter notes, power point slides, agendas, and recordings of the meeting that took place on Wednesday, October 27, 2013 at NAC18 02-202 concerning the DHS Watchlisting Enterprise Working Group from 10-11am."

My FOIA request was placed in the commercial fee category. I appeal.

I have made FOIA requests to your agency in various capacities. Therefore, it seems prudent to determine the fee category on a case by case basis depending upon the specific request. Although I have made requests in the past as both a representative of the news media and as a personal “all other” requester, I have never made any FOIA request as a commercial user. To be clear, I am not selling the information I receive nor has anyone paid me to obtain this information in this specific FOIA request or any that I have ever filed in the past. Additionally, I have no other commercial motives to make this request.

I suggest the “all other” fee category for this specific request because the primary purpose of this request is my own personal curiosity of a government function. I will be making the records public and they will be reviewed by other members of the news media. However, in this specific case, I am not yet certain if my personal interests will result in turning the information received into a unique work product and published in the news media. Since I am not yet certain if I will be creating a news media piece with this information, I will not venture to argue this should be billed in the news media fee category. I will however argue that billing in the commercial fee category is an untenable position that must be reversed as the result of this appeal, as there is no commercial interest behind this request.

In speaking with other DHS components recently, I understand that the DHS has circulated a memo requiring all requests coming from MuckRock users to be billed using the commercial fee category. The reason I was given over the telephone for this was that MuckRock is charging a fee to make FOIA requests on behalf of their users. First of all, charging a nominal fee for filing a request on another’s behalf is not the same thing as selling the data received. Paying for MuckRock services is more akin to paying a secretary to lick and stamp an envelope. Of course you would not charge all users who use the services of a secretary commercial use fees. Further, for this specific request, I can assure you that I have not paid anyone to make this request on my behalf. Additionally, I believe that the decision to consider MuckRock a commercial user of FOIA comes from a misunderstanding of what MuckRock is. MuckRock is an investigative tools website which provides tools for filing FOIA requests. MuckRock does sell a subscription service to use these tools. However, the end user is directly communicating with the agency. In my case, I am personally writing my own FOIA requests and directly sending them to your agency. I am personally writing this appeal on my own and communicating with you directly. I am using MuckRock to do this for the sake of proper FOIA request tracking. The MuckRock system has created a special email account specific to this FOIA request, so we can communicate about this request and track that communication appropriately. The MuckRock system tracks the date the request was sent and alerts me if too much time passes without a response so I can follow up with you. These tools that MuckRock offers are quite similar to other FOIA users tracking their requests in an Excel spreadsheet; however, MuckRock is far more capable in many ways than Excel. The indiscriminate labeling of MuckRock users as commercial is no more appropriate than labeling all Microsoft Excel users as such.

My relationship with MuckRock is limited to (a) the use of their services to help with managing my FOIA requests and (b) the submission of an occasional freelance news piece to the MuckRock News service. MuckRock News is where MuckRock posts news media work primarily created with the editorial skills of journalists using records released under the freedom of information act as a source to create a unique work product ( See https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/ ). I have no commercial interest in their services. Any recommendation I have made is solely as a satisfied user, just as a person who finds Microsoft Office useful might recommend that product to others. I have no ownership interest in MuckRock. I have no financial interest whatsoever in anything MuckRock does.

I trust that upon re-consideration, you will reverse the decision to bill me as a commercial user. However, if you deny this appeal, I see little choice left than to initiate a lawsuit to compel the appropriate fee category use.

I appreciate your timely consideration of my appeal in every way possible. In any case, I will expect to receive your decision within 20 business days, as required by the statute.

Thank you for your assistance.

Very truly yours,
Jason Smathers

From: Lasko, Linda

Mr. Smathers,

Attached, please find an acknowledgment of your appeal of the requester fee category determination related to DHS FOIA 14-OIA-0048.

Sincerely,

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

202-343-1743 (Main FOIA Number)
202-343-4011 (Fax)

Visit our FOIA website

This communication, along with any attachments, is covered by federal and state law governing electronic communications and may contain confidential and legally privileged information. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, use or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this in error, please reply immediately to the sender and delete this message. Thank you.

From: I&AFOIA

Good afternoon Mr. Smathers,

An error was committed while processing your request for :

"a copy of all handouts, presenter notes, PowerPoint slides, agendas, and recordings of the meeting that took place on Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at NAC18 02-202 concerning the "DHS Watchlisting Enterprise Working Group from 10-11am."

Please disregard the March 18, 2014 final "no records" response and standby for further communication from the I&A FOIA office.

V/r,
Priscilla Waters
Office of Intelligence and Analysis
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer
Unclass: (202) 447-4883
Unclass: Priscilla.Waters@hq.dhs.gov

From: Meus, Lauren M CIV

Mr. Smathers:

Please find attached the FOIA Appeal decision for the above matter.

Thank you,

Lauren Meus
Hearing Docket Clerk

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Nov. 27, 2013. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #14-IAFO-0048 ; 2014-HQAP-00040.

Thank you for your help.

From: I&AFOIA

Good afternoon Mr. Smathers,

Please find attached the final response to your Freedom of Information Act Request dated November 27, 2013.

V/R,

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Office
Office of Intelligence and Analysis
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
I&AFOIA@hq.dhs.gov<mailto:I&AFOIA@hq.dhs.gov>

Files

pages

Close