|Submitted||May 8, 2015|
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To Whom It May Concern:
This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:
Any and all internal reports on the risks of geomagnetic storms to the nation.
The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.
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.
DEPT MR 17808
P.O. Box 55819
Boston, MA 02205-5819
Sent by electronic mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Morisy,
This is in response to your attached Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated May 8, 2015, which was received in this Office on the same day and assigned FOIA case number 15-F-1162. We ask that you use that number when referring to your request.
The FOIA requires requesters to reasonably describe the information they seek so that professional employees familiar with the subject matter can locate responsive information with a reasonable amount of effort. Broad sweeping requests lacking specificity are insufficient; and, even where a request sufficiently describes the records sought, an agency is not required to comply with a request so broad that it would impose an unreasonable burden upon the agency. Courts have explained that the rationale for this rule is that FOIA was not intended to reduce government agencies to full-time investigators on behalf of requesters, or to allow requesters to conduct fishing expeditions through agency files. Although courts have been wary to prohibit this requirement from becoming a loophole through which federal agencies can deny the public access to legitimate information, it has been held that broad, sweeping requests--lacking specificity, are not permissible.
According to the FOIA's legislative history, a description would be sufficient if it enabled a professional employee of the agency who was familiar with the subject area of the request to locate the record with a reasonable amount of effort, and reasonably describes records if the agency is able to determine "precisely" what records are being requested. The "reasonably describes" requirement exists because the FOIA was not intended to reduce government agencies to full-time investigators on behalf of requesters. As such, it is the requester's responsibility to frame requests with sufficient particularity to ensure the searches are not unreasonably burdensome, and to enable the searching agency to determine precisely what records are being requested.
Courts have identified at least three (3) ways in which a FOIA request can fail to reasonably describe the records sought:
1) the description may be too vague to allow the agency to determine precisely what records are being requested; an agency is not required to have clairvoyant capabilities to discover the requestor's need;
2) broad sweeping requests lacking specificity are insufficient; and,
3) even where a request sufficiently describes the records sought, an agency is not required to comply with a request so broad that it would impose an unreasonable burden upon the agency. An agency need not honor a request that requires an unreasonably burdensome search. The "reasonably describes" requirement exists because the FOIA was not intended to reduce government agencies to full-time investigators on behalf of requesters. As such, it is the requester's responsibility to frame requests with sufficient particularity to ensure the searches are not unreasonably burdensome, and to enable the searching agency to determine precisely what records are being requested.
Please be aware that this FOIA office only processes requests for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JS). There is not a central FOIA processing point for the entire Department of Defense (DoD) records management, but is, instead, delegated to those officials of the military services and various DoD components that generate and/or maintain the records being sought. The addresses can be found on our OSD/JS FOIA Requester Service Center Website at: http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/milservices.html.
As it stands, your request is not reasonably described, as it is too broad and would impose an unreasonable burden upon the agency. You have requested "geomagnetic storms to the nation" and we cannot determine how the requested information is associated with OSD/JS. Before search will begin, we ask that you limit the broad topic by providing what component of the Office of the Secretary of Defense is to be searched and precisely what records, by subject, you are seeking. If we have not heard from you by close of business May 18, 2015, we will believe that you are no longer interested and close the request.
Please be advised that the Department of Homeland Security has a report posted online that may be of interest to you.
If you decide to continue with your request and 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. § 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.
You state that the requested information will be made available to the general public and not 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.
We will not begin search until we hear from you. If you do decide to pursue the records, 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 1,554 open requests.
The action officer for your request is Mr. Reynaldo Williams, copied on this e-mail.
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 15-F-1162, and should be clearly marked "Freedom of Information Act Appeal."
Adrienne M. Santos,
Government Information Specialist
on behalf of Stephanie L. Carr,
Chief, Freedom of Information Act Division
OSD/JS FOIA Office