Censorship of USAFA Cadet Religious Speech

Jason Smathers filed this request with the United States Air Force Academy of the United States of America.
Tracking # 2014-03118-F
Est. Completion None
Status
Withdrawn

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:

All records concerning the religious expression using white boards at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In the first quarter of 2014, Mikey Weinstein, who runs the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, filed a complaint concerning Galatians 2:20 being quoted on a white board on the door of a cadet’s dorm room. I am requesting that complaint, all correspondence with Weinstein and other representatives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, all communication with the cadet who posted the Bible verse, all complaints from cadets about the subsequent censorship, all internal communication concerning the specific incident, the complaint, the general use of the whiteboards, policies, memos or other notices which dictate the proper use or prohibitions of use of these whiteboards, correspondence with other agencies or the public concerning this event, and records created by the subsequent use of the white boards by cadets to post more religious communication in response to the initial censorship.

You may limit the search to records created between 1/1/2014 and the date this request is processed.

The search should include, but not be limited to, the records of Lt. Col. Denise Cooper and Lt. Col. Brus Vidal, as they have been cited in the press in relation to this issue.

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 March 14, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: Springs, Charles

Dear Smathers
This is in response to your March 14, 2014 Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of  the complaint, all correspondence with Weinstein and other representatives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, all communication with the cadet who posted the Bible verse, all complaints from cadets about the subsequent censorship, all internal communication concerning the specific incident, the complaint, the general use of the whiteboards, policies, memos or other notices which dictate the proper use or prohibitions of use of these whiteboards, correspondence with other agencies or the public concerning this event, and records created by the subsequent use of the white boards by cadets to post more religious communication in response to the initial censorship.
The FOIA Reform Act of 1986 requires that we review each request to determine a requester’s assessment of fee category.  Based on your request, we have placed you in the “Commerical” fee category; as such you are to pay for search, review/excising, and reproduction costs.  Before processing your request we must have your promise to pay for all search at clerical category at $20.00 per hour or professional category at $44.00 per hour, review/excising at clerical category at $20.00 per hour or at professional category at $44.00 per hour; and reproduction cost at 15 cents per page.  If you wish to accept an electronic copy of the requested records, we can remove the reproduction cost.
We are holding your request in abeyance until we receive your willingness to pay letter.  Please reference FOIA Case 2014-03118-F in all correspondence. If we do not receive a reply by (10 work days, 1 May 2014), we will close this case file and you will need to initiate a new FOIA request for these documents.
If you interpret this “fee category determination” response as an adverse action, you may appeal it to the Secretary of the Air Force within 60 days from the date of this letter.  Include in your appeal your reasons for reconsideration and attach a copy of this letter.  Address your letter as follows:
Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Thru: USAFA FOIA Requester Service Center
5136 Community Center Drive
USAF Academy CO 80840-4200
If you have questions please call our office at (719-333-6231), or write to the address shown above. You may also fax your reply to (719-333-0060).
Sincerely

//SIGNED//
Charles M. Springs
Freedom of Information Act Manager
Directorate of Communications and Information
FOIA Case No: 2014-03118-F

From: Springs, Charles

Dear Mr. Smathers
This is in response to your April 13, 2014 Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of All records concerning the religious expression using white boards at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In the first quarter of 2014, Mikey Weinstein, who runs the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, filed a complaint concerning Galatians 2:20 being quoted on a white board on the door of a cadet’s dorm room. I am requesting that complaint, all correspondence with Weinstein and other representatives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, all communication with the cadet who posted the Bible verse, all complaints from cadets about the subsequent censorship, all internal communication concerning the specific incident, the complaint, the general use of the whiteboards, policies, memos or other notices which dictate the proper use or prohibitions of use of these whiteboards, correspondence with other agencies or the public concerning this event, and records created by the subsequent use of the white boards by cadets to post more religious communication in response to the initial censorship.
The FOIA Reform Act of 1986 requires that we review each request to determine a requester’s assessment of fee category. Based on your request, we have placed you in the “Commerical” fee category; as such you are to pay for search, review/excising, and reproduction costs. Before processing your request we must have your promise to pay for all search at clerical category at $20.00 per hour or professional category at $44.00 per hour, review/excising at clerical category at $20.00 per hour or at professional category at $44.00 per hour; and reproduction cost at 15 cents per page. If you wish to accept an electronic copy of the requested records, we can remove the reproduction cost.
We are holding your request in abeyance until we receive your willingness to pay letter. Please reference FOIA Case 2014-03505-F in all correspondence. If we do not receive a reply by (10 work days, 1 May 2014), we will close this case file and you will need to initiate a new FOIA request for these documents.
If you interpret this “fee category determination” response as an adverse action, you may appeal it to the Secretary of the Air Force within 60 days from the date of this letter. Include in your appeal your reasons for reconsideration and attach a copy of this letter. Address your letter as follows:
Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Thru: USAFA FOIA Requester Service Center
5136 Community Center Drive
USAF Academy CO 80840-4200
If you have questions please call our office at (719-333-6231), or write to the address shown above. You may also fax your reply to (719-333-0060).
Sincerely
//SIGNED//
Charles M. Springs
Freedom of Information Act Manager
Directorate of Communications and Information
FOIA Case No: 2014-03505-F

From: Springs, Charles

Dear Mr. Smathers:
This is in response to your April 13, 2014 Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of All records concerning the religious expression using white boards at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In the first quarter of 2014, Mikey Weinstein, who runs the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, filed a complaint concerning Galatians 2:20 being quoted on a white board on the door of a cadet’s dorm room. I am requesting that complaint, all correspondence with Weinstein and other representatives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, all communication with the cadet who posted the Bible verse, all complaints from cadets about the subsequent censorship, all internal communication concerning the specific incident, the complaint, the general use of the whiteboards, policies, memos or other notices which dictate the proper use or prohibitions of use of these whiteboards, correspondence with other agencies or the public concerning this event, and records created by the subsequent use of the white boards by cadets to post more religious communication in response to the initial censorship.
We are writing you this letter to inform you that actions on your request is closed since you have not respond to the fee category, indicated your willingness to pay the estimated fee over your set limit or did not choose to modify your request.
This concludes the administrative process of this request. If you still require the requested records, you will have to initiate a new FOIA request with this office. You may call us or email us if you have any additional questions and please reference FOIA 2014-03505-F in your response.
If you have any questions please call me at (719) 333-6231.
Sincerely,
//SIGNED//
CHARLES M. SPRINGS
FOIA Officer, United
States Air Force Academy

From: Springs, Charles

Dear Mr. Smathers:
This is in response to your March 14, 2014 Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of Requesting that complaint, all correspondence with Weinstein and other representatives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, all communication with the cadet who posted the Bible verse, all complaints from cadets about the subsequent censorship, all internal communication concerning the specific incident, the complaint, the general use of the whiteboards, policies, memos or other notices which dictate the proper use or prohibitions of use of these whiteboards, correspondence with other agencies or the public concerning this event, and records created by the subsequent use of the white boards by cadets to post more religious communication in response to the initial censorship.. The FOIA Reform Act of 1986 requires that we review each request to determine a requester’s assessment of fee category.
We are writing you this letter to inform you that actions on your request is closed since you have not indicated your willingness to pay or respond to the fee category letter.
This concludes the administrative process of this request. If you still require the requested records, you will have to initiate a new FOIA request with this office. You may call us or email us if you have any additional questions and please reference FOIA 2014-03118-F in your response.
If you have any questions please call me at (719) 333-6231.
Sincerely,
//SIGNED//
CHARLES M. SPRINGS
FOIA Officer, United
States Air Force Academy

From: Jason Smathers

FOIA Appeal

Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Thru: USAFA FOIA Requester Service Center
5136 Community Center Drive
USAF Academy CO 80840-4200

Dear Secretary of the Air Force,

This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act in regard to FOIA 2014-03505-F and FOIA 2014-03118-F. Both request numbers were provided by Charles M. Springs, but I am not clear as to why two different numbers were used.

On March 14, 2014 I requested the following:
All records concerning the religious expression using white boards at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In the first quarter of 2014, Mikey Weinstein, who runs the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, filed a complaint concerning Galatians 2:20 being quoted on a white board on the door of a cadet’s dorm room. I am requesting that complaint, all correspondence with Weinstein and other representatives of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, all communication with the cadet who posted the Bible verse, all complaints from cadets about the subsequent censorship, all internal communication concerning the specific incident, the complaint, the general use of the whiteboards, policies, memos or other notices which dictate the proper use or prohibitions of use of these whiteboards, correspondence with other agencies or the public concerning this event, and records created by the subsequent use of the white boards by cadets to post more religious communication in response to the initial censorship.

On April 17, 2014, I received notice that I was being billed under the "commercial" fee category. This determination is baffling as I have no commercial interest in the request. In fact, I have written many news media stories on matters of faith in government and the military in specific. I intend to do so with this material as well. News Media would be the most appropriate fee category. Below are URLS to specific examples of my news media reporting on this type of story:
http://www.witnessesuntome.com/2011/10/christian-faith-nuclear-war-us-air-force-says-no-problem/
http://www.witnessesuntome.com/2010/08/united-states-marines-duped-by-pretend-jihadist-ergun-caner/
http://www.witnessesuntome.com/2010/08/senator-burris-seeks-to-turn-military-hospitals-into-abortion-clinics/
http://www.witnessesuntome.com/2013/06/1077/

In the above examples, I took raw data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (or legislative record in one case) and turned that into a unique news media work product using editorial skills. I also distributed that work to a wide audience. I intend to do the same thing with the records I am requesting now.

Please note that I have absolutely no commercial interest in this request. I am using the secretarial services provided by MuckRock as a customer. I do not own MuckRock, nor do I have any other financial interest in MuckRock. I am writing this request and appeal myself for myself. I have not paid anyone to write this request for me. I am not profiting off this request or the materials when they are returned. I have never sold data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, nor do I intend to do so in this case. I do not run any business or have any other commercial interest that would benefit from this information.

The sole purpose of this request is to shed light on the issue of government censorship of religious speech in the US Air Force. I intend to do this through writing about the records I have requested and posting the records themselves on the internet for others to review.

Therefore, I appeal the determination that I am a commercial requester. Please process my request as requested. I agree to fees up to $20. If fees are expected to exceed this amount, please provide me an estimate so that I can either expand my willingness to pay fees or to narrow the scope of my request. I request the records be provided in electronic format.

Also, please note that a statutory deadline was missed as more than 20 days passed between the receipt of this request and the request for fees. Therefore, I appeal the use of fees unless the are limited under the 2007 Amendment to the Freedom of Information Act where fees are limited when a statutory deadline is not met. Also, please note, that the 10 day extension was not requested or taken in this case. In fact, more than 20 days passed before the first acknowledgment of the request.

Regards,
Jason Smathers

From: BETHEA, RAND GS-11 USAF ACC ACC A6/A6XP

Ms. Smathers,

I have read your email string below and I can't determine what records were requested in the original FOIA request. The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency has been designated as 25th Air Force and they now fall under the Air Combat Command for FOIA oversight. Mr. Ybarra is no longer the FOIA manager. Staff Sergeant Jamia Benedict has assumed prestigious position and she is reviewing past emails to determine what action has not been completed. This email is one of those issues we are trying to resolve; therefore, please let us know what was the original request.

Clarification: As a user of MUDROCK services you are not automatically considered a "commercial" requester. Your category could be "commercial" based on the information you are requesting; therefore, if you are requesting contract information, the Secretary of the Air Force has determined that individual should be charged as a commercial requester unless they can provide justification why they should not be placed in that category. Our category determination will be made based on each case received.

Suspense for clarification: It is the practice of the Air Combat Command to give the requester 10 days to respond to a clarification request and place the case on hold until a response is received. Case will only be closed after last attempt is made to contact you via email or telephone. If you fail to respond in a releasable time afterwards, we will close the request. If your clarification is received sometime after the closure, we can reopen the case file and still process.

FEES: If you agree to pay a limit amount for fees, we will contact you when the fees exceed the amount you agreed to pay. Due to all records being provided electronically, we will not be charging any duplication fees.

Expedite Services: Please don't ask for expedited services when submit your future requests. ACC doesn't have a multi-track service (first-in, first-out); therefore, all requests are processed upon receipt and we still have 20 workdays to process as established by law.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me at (757) 764-2261, or rand.bethea@us.af.mil. - acc.foia@usaf.mil.

Again, we are unable to proceed on this email because we don't know what the original request was for.

New Team onboard and we the stand ready to assist you.

RAND BETHEA
Freedom of Information Act Manager
Air Combat Command

Files

There are no files associated with this request.