MuckRock emails (Office of Personnel Management)

Emma Best filed this request with the Office of Personnel Management of the United States of America.

It is a clone of this request.

Tracking #

18-028, 2018-07917

18-028

Multi Request MuckRock emails
Due July 20, 2018
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: Emma Best


To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

Copies of all emails containing the terms "MuckRock", "Muck Rock" or "MuckRock.com", excluding emails sent to or from a MuckRock.com email address. Please include the complete email exchange for each email, including any emails that are being replied to as well as any subsequent replies.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities. I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through non-profits such as the Internet Archive and MuckRock, disseminating them to a large audience. While my research is not limited to this, a great deal of it, including this, focuses on the activities and attitudes of the government itself. As such, it is not necessary for me to demonstrate the relevance of this particular subject in advance.

Additionally, case law states that “proof of the ability to disseminate the released information to a broad cross- section of the public is not required.” Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep’t of Justice, 365 F.3d 1108, 1126 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see Carney v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 19 F.3d 807, 814-15 (2d Cir. 1994). Further, courts have held that "qualified because it also had “firm” plans to “publish a number of . . . ‘document sets’” concerning United States foreign and national security policy." Under this criteria, as well, I qualify as a member of the news media.

Additionally, courts have held that the news media status "focuses on the nature of the requester, not its request. The provision requires that the request be “made by” a representative of the news media. Id. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii)(II). A newspaper reporter, for example, is a representative of the news media regardless of how much interest there is in the story for which he or she is requesting information." As such, the details of the request itself are moot for the purposes of determining the appropriate fee category. As my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available, I request that fees be waived.

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 there are fees, 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,

Emma Best

From: Office of Personnel Management

Good morning, Ms. Best:

In order for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to respond to your request, you need to provide additional information.

Your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA; 5 USC 552, as amended) should describe the records sought in sufficient detail to enable the OPM office to locate the records with a reasonable amount of effort. Whenever possible, you should include specific information about each record sought, such as the date, number, title or name, author, recipient, and subject matter of the record.

You may visit the OPM website, www.opm.gov<http://www.opm.gov>, to familiarize yourself with OPM’s programs and to determine which program offices may have records which would be responsive. And, as a reminder, please include the timeframe of your request.

Thank you.

Office of the Chief Information Officer
Freedom of Information Act
Requester Service Center
Telephone: (202) 606-3642
E-mail: FOIA@opm.gov<mailto:FOIA@opm.gov>

From: Office of Personnel Management

The request has been rejected by the agency.

From: Emma Best

Courts have already determined that the request is reasonable, and email systems such as yours can be searched electronically and centrally. "the FOIA does not authorize [an Agency] to deny a FOIA email request categorically, simply and solely because the request does not reference the sender, recipient, subject, and time frame. Cf. S. Rep. No. 93-854, at. 10 (1974) (noting that Congress intended the “reasonably described” language to be interpreted liberally, and that this standard “should not be used to obstruct public access to agency records”)."

Your agency appears to use Microsoft as its email server, which provides centralized search options such as the eDiscovery tool (https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd298021(v=exchg.160).aspx), confirming that the request is not an undue burden.

Additionally, your claim that in addition to an electronic search the Agency would have to "then review them to confirm whether they actually contain the search terms provided" is without merit, as there is no reason to doubt that the electronic search would be accurate. No court has found that agencies are allowed to artificially create barriers to the release of files in order to justify their withholding.

Further, the court findings you refer to about "fishing expeditions" have typically referred to the difficulty of calculating a reasonable search and the agency's ability to determine whether a particular record is responsive or not - a question that will not be difficult for the agency to determine in this case. Your agency should also be aware that many other federal agencies have already found the request to be reasonable, although time consuming.

As courts have found that this specific type of request is reasonable, and your system allows for centralized searches to be conducted, and as the responsiveness of various records will be easy to determine, I request that you proceed with the request.

I will be most happy to appeal and pursue the matter further if you are unwilling to comply with the request, with the FOIA statute, and with relevant case law by citing artificial and inapplicable barriers.

From: Office of Personnel Management

Good morning, Ms. Best:

Would you, please, specify how far back you wish OPM to conduct its search for responsive records?

Thank you.

Office of the Chief Information Officer
Freedom of Information Act
Requester Service Center
Telephone: (202) 606-3642
E-mail: FOIA@opm.gov<mailto:FOIA@opm.gov>

From: Emma Best

5/10/2010 through the present.

Thanks!

From: Office of Personnel Management

Good afternoon, Ms. Best:

Attached is the acknowledgment letter for your June 27, 2018 FOIA request.

Office of the Chief Information Officer
Freedom of Information Act
Requester Service Center
Telephone: (202) 606-3642
E-mail: FOIA@opm.gov<mailto:FOIA@opm.gov>

  • Emma Best acknowledgment letter & fee waiver granted, 7.10.2018

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