MOU w/ USPS (DHS)

Jason Smathers filed this request with the Department of Homeland Security of the United States of America.
Tracking # 2014-HQFO-00163 ; 2014-HQAP-00022
Status
Rejected

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 Memoranda of Understanding/Memoranda of Agreement with the USPS.

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: Day, Mia

Good Afternoon,
Attached is our acknowledgment to your DHS FOIA request.  If you need to contact this office again concerning your request, please provide the DHS reference number. This will enable us to quickly retrieve the information you are seeking and reduce our response time. This office can be reached at 866-431-0486.
Regards,
DHS Privacy Office Disclosure & FOIA Program
STOP 0655
Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20528-0655
Telephone:  1-866-431-0486 or 202-343-1743
Fax:  202-343-4011
Visit our
FOIA website (http://www.dhs.gov/foia)

From: Jason Smathers

Hello,

A copy of the below appeal has been sent to the following address:

Associate General Counsel (General Law)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Mailstop 0655
Washington, D.C. 20528

Please confirm receipt of both copies.

Thank you.

=====

FOIA APPEAL

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

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.

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 related to FOIA #2014-HQFO-00163.

Sincerely,

Linda Lasko
FOIA Program Specialist
Privacy Office
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: Day, Mia

Good Afternoon, Attached is our final response to your request.  If you need to contact this office again concerning your request, please provide the DHS reference number. This will enable us to quickly retrieve the information you are seeking and reduce our response time. This office can be reached at 866-431-0486. Regards, DHS Privacy Office Disclosure & FOIA Program
STOP 0655
Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Drive, SW
Washington, DC 20528-0655
Telephone:  1-866-431-0486 or 202-343-1743
Fax:  202-343-4011
Visit our FOIA website

From: Meus, Lauren M CIV

Mr. Smathers:

Please find attached the FOIA Appeal Decision issued in the above matter.

Thank you,

Lauren Meus
Hearing Docket Clerk

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