Operational use of Publicly Available Internet Social Media for Situational Awareness Initiative (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

Emma Best filed this request with the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the United States of America.
Due March 21, 2017
Est. Completion None
Awaiting Response


From: Michael Best

To Whom It May Concern:

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

Information collected and generated as part of the "Publicly Available Internet Social Media for Situational Awareness Initiative", which draws from Open Source materials. As this is OSINT, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy that would prevent the total release of these materials (as opposed to reasonably redacting segregable PII).

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities for AND Magazine, MuckRock and Glomar Disclosure and have an open arrangement with each. My articles have been widely read, with some reaching over 100,000 readers. As such, as I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. In addition, I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through the non-profit Internet Archive, 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 such, my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available and I therefore 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.


Michael Best

From: Presley, Paula

Dear Mr. Best,

This acknowledges receipt of your January 21, 2017 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), received in our office on January 21, 2017. You are seeking information collected and generated as part of the "Publicly Available Internet Social Media for Situational Awareness Initiative", which draws from Open Source materials.

Due to the increasing number of FOIA requests received by this office, we may encounter some delay in processing your request. Per Section 5.5(a) of the DHS FOIA regulations, 6 C.F.R. Part 5, the Department processes FOIA requests according to their order of receipt. Although FEMA’s goal is to respond within 20 business days of receipt of your request, the FOIA does permit a 10-day extension of this time period. As your request seeks numerous documents that will necessitate a thorough and wide-ranging search, DHS/FEMA will invoke a 10-day extension for your request, as allowed by Title 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B). If you care to narrow the scope of your request, please contact our office. We will make every effort to comply with your request in a timely manner; however, there are currently 1272 open requests ahead of yours.
Provisions of the Act allow us to recover part of the cost of complying with your request. We shall charge you for records in accordance with the DHS Interim FOIA regulations as they apply to media requestors. As a media requestor you will be charged 10-cents a page for duplication, although the first 100 pages are free. We will construe the submission of your request as an agreement to pay up to $25.00. You will be contacted before any further fees are accrued.

We have queried the appropriate program offices of FEMA for responsive records. If any responsive records are located, they will be reviewed for determination of releasability. Please be assured that one of the FOIA Specialist in our office will respond to your request expeditiously as possible. We appreciate your patience as we proceed with your request.

To check the status of your FOIA requests you may use the online check status capability at http://www.dhs.gov/foia-status. Simply enter your request number and click the “Check Status” button. More information concerning the FOIA and implementing DHS regulations is available on-line at: www.dhs.gov/xfoia/editorial_0318.shtm<http://www.dhs.gov/xfoia/editorial_0318.shtm>.

Your request has been assigned reference number FEMA 2017-FEFO-01284. Please refer to this identifier in any future correspondence. If you need to contact our office concerning this request, please call (202) 646-3323 or electronically at FEMA-FOIA@fema.dhs.gov<mailto:FEMA-FOIA@fema.dhs.gov>.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Disclosure Branch
Records Management Division
Mission Support Bureau

Paula Presley
Program Specialist – Disclosure Branch
Division of Information Management
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Office – 202-212-5877
Mobile - 202-320-0187

From: Michael Best

"We will construe the submission of your request as an agreement to pay up to $25.00." Do not do so. I specifically asked to be contacted about ANY fees before you fulfill the request and duplication. I'm sure you would appreciate a chance to negotiate the request and reduce your workload, in addition to complying with my request and fee terms as specified.


From: Hawkins, Christopher

Good Morning Mr. Best

This responds to your emailed inquiry on the status of your Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2017-FEFO-01284

Your case has been received and assigned to an agency component to begin a search for responsive documents.

That component has not yet provided a response. Rest assured your case has not been forgotten. The assigned component has been advised again today for a response. Please know that once responsive documents are received, they must undergo a legally mandated review and redaction process which

may not be bypassed, and will require additional time.

Upon completion of the review, and approval of our Office of Chief Counsel, you will receive the responsive documents with a final response letter detailing the circumstances of your case.

Your continued patience is greatly appreciated. 4/5/2017


Christopher Hawkins
Management Analyst
FEMA FOIA Disclosure Branch
US Department of Homeland Security
Office: (202) 646-3250
Mobile: (202) 716-8977

From: US DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency FOIA Office

Dear Michael Best:
Attached is the final response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request.  If you need to contact our office concerning this request, please call (202) 212-3323 or email and reference your FOIA tracking number (mailto:FEMA-FOIA@dhs.gov) FEMA-FOIA@dhs.gov 2017-FEFO-01284.

Regards, Blackwell, Tonya Disclosure Branch
Information Management Division
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Telephone: (202) 646-3323