DoD News Channel rejected shows

Todd Feathers filed this request with the Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America.
Tracking # 14-F-1522
Due Oct. 23, 2014
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Todd Feathers

To Whom It May Concern:

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

-A list of all rejected program ideas for the DoD News Channel, which is run by Defense Media Activity out of Fort Meade.

-Viewer complaints/comments about all DoD News Channel shows since Jan. 1, 2013.

-Annual budgets for all DoD News Channel programs.

If it is possible to release documents pertaining to one of the above aspects of my request before releasing documents responsive to the other aspects, please do so. It is not necessary to wait until all the documents are ready to be released.

I also request that all fees be waived for this request as I am a journalist -- employed by MuckRock and the Boston Globe -- and I intend to use any pertinent information I receive as a result of this request to educate the public on Department of Defense entertainment programming.

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,

Todd Feathers

From: Williams, Reynaldo I CIV (US)

MuckRock News
DEPT MR 13586
PO Box 55819
Boston, MA 02205-5819

Sent by electronic mail to: requests@muckrock.com

Dear Mr. Feathers:

This is an interim response to your attached Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated September 24, 2014, which was received in this office on September 25, 2014. Your request has been assigned case number 14-F-1522.

With regard to your request for a waiver of any applicable fees, a fee waiver is appropriate when "disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester." 5 U.S.C. ยง 552(a)(4)(iii) In making a determination, six factors are considered as to whether your request satisfies this statutory standard: (1) whether the subject of the requested records concerns the operations or activities of the government; (2) whether the disclosure is likely to contribute to an understanding of government operations or activities; (3) whether disclosure of the requested information will contribute to the understanding of the general public; (4) whether the disclosure is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations and activities; (5) whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure; and, (6) whether any such commercial interest outweighs the public interest in disclosure.

While the requested information does concern the operations and activities of the government and does not appear to be intended for a commercial interest, it is not clear how the responsive documents - should they exist - would significantly contribute to the public understanding of the operations and activities of the government. After carefully reviewing your request I am denying your fee waiver request because the information stated does not support how the documents will significantly contribute to the public's increased understanding of the operations and activities of government. Please be aware that we reserve the right to grant a fee waiver should a search find documents that meet the criterion of a public interest fee waiver as described in the previous paragraph.

I have determined that you should be placed in the "Other" category for fee purposes as you have indicated that you do not seek access to these records for commercial purposes. The "Other" fee category affords you two hours of search time and 100 pages of duplication free of charge. As you did not provide any willingness to pay search will be halted after your two free hours have been expended. If you wish to add a willingness to pay or have any questions concerning this request, please feel free to e-mail me directly at your earliest convenience.

You should also know that although we have already begun processing your request, we will be unable to respond to your request within the FOIA's 20 day statutory time period as there are unusual circumstances which impact on our ability to quickly process your request. These unusual circumstances are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office and (b) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. For these reasons, your request has been placed in our complex processing queue and will be worked in the order the request was received. Our current administrative workload is 1554 open requests.

If you are not satisfied with this action, you may petition the Appellate Authority, the Director of Administration, Office of the Secretary of Defense, by writing directly to the OSD/Joint Staff Freedom of Information, ATTN: Appeals Office, 1155 Defense Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20301-1155; you may also submit your appeal electronically at the following link: http://pal.whs.mil/palMain.aspx. Your appeal should be postmarked within 60 calendar days of the date of this mail, should cite case number 14-F-1522, and should be clearly marked "Freedom of Information Act Appeal."

Sincerely,

Mr. Reynaldo I.L. Williams, FOIA Analyst
For Suzanne Council on behalf of
Paul Jacobsmeyer, Chief, Freedom of Information Act Division
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information OSD/JS FOIA Office

From: Todd Feathers

To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing to appeal the denial of my request for a fee waiver relative to request 14-F-1522, which I submitted on Sept. 24 to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
As has apparently become the modus operandi at Department of Defense agencies, the FOI officer handling my request denied my fee waiver on the grounds that I did not provide sufficient evidence of how I would use the documents in the public's interest.
The Department of Defense has apparently taken the stance that unless a member of the news media explains to them exactly how, when, and in what context the requested documents will be published, then the department is entitled to reject a fee waiver.
Even if that is not a blatant violation of the letter of the law, it is certainly a violation of the spirit of the law, which is intentioned to promote public disclosure rather than government secrecy. In, this case, the secrecy is doubly absurd because the documents I requested are quite innocuous.
However, while I reject the presumption that I am required to do so by law, I will now provide the inane level of justification that Mr. Reynaldo L. Williams demands in his Oct. 2 letter.
1) "whether the subject of the requested records concerns the operations or activities of the government"
Mr. Reynaldo himself admits later in his letter that "the requested information does concern the operations and activities of the government."
2) "whether the disclosure is likely to contribute to an understanding of government operations or activities."
I requested budget documents for television shows produced by the Department of Defense as well as a list of rejected shows and any viewer complaints received concerning those shows. Together, and individually, those documents will paint a significant portrait of the government's purpose in creating such shows and the value of those shows as determined by their monetary cost compared to viewer feedback.
3) "whether disclosure of the requested information will contribute to the understanding of the general public"
As I stated in my original request, "I am a journalist -- employed by MuckRock and the Boston Globe -- and I intend to use any pertinent information I receive as a result of this request to educate the public on Department of Defense entertainment programming." According to the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552), "A publication contract would present a solid basis for such an expectation; the Government may also consider the past publication record of the requester in making such a determination." I did not provide a photocopy of my employment contract along with my request. For that, I sarcastically apologize. It would be exceedingly easy for anyone with a computer, as I assume Mr. Williams has, to verify my credentials. A simple Google search of my name will turn up hundreds of articles for the Boston Globe and MuckRock. And as a member of the news media, publishing articles to facilitate the understanding of the general public is what I do for a living. Unless Mr. Williams would like me to conduct a scientific poll determining the level of understanding gained by everyone who has read my articles, it seems logical that my employment by established media companies is sufficient evidence for this point.
4) "whether the disclosure is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of government operations and activities"
I fail to see how I could make it clearer that I intend to publish an educational article regarding the Department of Defense shows. But if that is what is required, then yes, I do indeed intend to publish an article about the shows. I believe my article will help the public understand the reasoning behind and usefulness of the shows, because helping people understand issues is what journalistic articles do.
5) "whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure"
Mr. Williams acknowledges in his Oct. 2 letter that my request "does not appear to be intended for a commercial interest."
6) "whether any such commercial interest outweighs the public interest in disclosure."
There is no commercial interest. There is a public interest.
Given the above reasons, I hereby request that I be granted a fee waiver as a member of the news media.
You may find it interesting to note that the Oct. 2 letter I received from Mr. Williams is a boiler plate fee waiver denial. I have received equally irresponsible letters, with the exact same wording, in response to FOI request 14-A-0382 (more than seven months overdue), and other requests. Obviously, no thought was put into rejecting any of those fee waivers. And whenever I have previously appealed a Department of Defense fee waiver denial, I have won. The continued bad-faith behaviors, I believe, represent a gross negligence on behalf of the Department of Defense. How did Einstein define insanity? "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
I would, respectfully, like to suggest that in order to avoid wasting everybody's time in the future, FOI officers within the Department of Defense be advised that their primary function is not to make it harder to access public records.

From: Williams, Reynaldo I CIV (US)


From: Williams, Reynaldo I CIV (US)

Williams, Reynaldo I CIV (US) would like to recall the message, "Freedom of Information Request #14-F-1522".

From: Williams, Reynaldo I CIV (US)

MuckRock News
DEPT MR 13586
PO Box 55819
Boston, MA 02205-5819

Sent by electronic mail to: requests@muckrock.com.

Dear Mr. Feathers:

We apologize for the misunderstanding and have granted you "News/Media" status. Our office will continue to process your request.

Sincerely,

Mr. Reynaldo I.L. Williams, FOIA Analyst
For Suzanne Council on behalf of Paul Jacobsmeyer,
Chief, Freedom of Information Act Division OSD/JS
Office of Freedom of Information OSD/JS FOIA Office
-------------------------------------------------------

From: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense

A letter stating that the request appeal has been rejected.

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 Sept. 24, 2014. 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-F-1522.

Thank you for your help.

From: Williams, Reynaldo I CIV (US)

Good morning Mr. Feathers,

Thank you for your inquiry in regards to your request OSD/JS FOIA 14-F01522. We estimate a completion date of September 2015. Please understand that we have an outstanding case load as we are working diligently to meet our customer's requests.

Again, thank you and Happy New Year.

Sincerely,

Mr. Reynaldo I.L. Williams
Government Information Specialist
For Suzanne Council on behalf of
M. L. Wahling, Acting Chief, Freedom of Information Act Division
OSD/JS FOIA Office

From: Porter, Sean M CTR (US)

Mr. Feathers,

I am the new action officer for FOIA case #14-F-1522. Thank you for your inquiry in regards to your request OSD/JS FOIA 14-F-1522. We estimate a completion date of January 2016. Please understand that we have an outstanding case load as we are working diligently to meet our customer's requests.
Thanks,

Sean Porter
FOIA Specialist
QualX Corporation
DoD/WHS/ESD
(571) 372-0421
sean.m.porter27.ctr@mail.mil

From: Porter, Sean M CTR (US)

Mr. Feathers,

Thank you for your inquiry in regards to your FOIA case #14-F-1522. We estimate a completion date of March, 2016. Please understand that we have an outstanding case load as we are working diligently to meet our customer's requests.
Thanks,

Sean Porter
FOIA Specialist
QualX Corporation
DoD/WHS/ESD
(571) 372-0421
sean.m.porter27.ctr@mail.mil

From: Todd Feathers

Mr. Porter,

This request is now almost two years old. Can you please inform me where I stand in the que of outstanding FOIA cases?

Thank you,
Todd

From: Porter, Sean M CTR WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Feathers,

Your FOIA request (14-F-1522) is #584 in the queue of outstanding FOIA requests.
Thanks,

Sean Porter
FOIA Specialist
DoD/WHS/ESD
(571) 372-0421
sean.m.porter27.ctr@mail.mil

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