|Submitted||Oct. 6, 2014|
To Whom It May Concern:
This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records: Current copies of the Transportation Security Administration's PARIS, PIMS and PMIS databases.
"Current," for the purposes of this request, means a complete data pull performed as close to the date of fulfillment as possible. In other words, I am not requesting copy of these databases as they existed Oct. 6, the date of this request; I am requesting copies of the databases as they exist when TSA actually fulfills the request at some point in the future.
If your initial response is to request that I narrow the scope of this request, please refer to FOIA request 2014-TSFO-00245, in which I sought the record layouts for these files. The purpose of that request was to gather enough information that I could eventually submit a more targeted request . But that request was placed on the "complex" track and given an estimated fulfillment time sometime in 2015, despite my good-faith attempts at resolution via the Office of Government Information Services.
In keeping with President Obama's Executive Order of May 09, 2013, which stipulates that government data should be available, by default, in machine-readable form, I request that these records be provided in an electronic format that can be imported into standard database software. Examples include an Excel .xls or .xlsx file, an Access .mdb or .accdb file, a text-based delimited file (.csv, .txt., .tsv., etc.), a .dbf file or an SQL dump readable by standard open-source database software. (This would not include PDFs, which are not readable by database software.)
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 Omaha World-Herald and is made in the process of news gathering and not for commercial usage.
If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the Freedom Of Information Act. I will also expect you to release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. I reserve the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to deny a waiver of fees.
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.
Thank you for contacting the Freedom of Information Act Branch (FOIA) within the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This acknowledges that we have successfully received your email.
If you have submitted a FOIA request, this email serves as TSA’s acknowledgement of receipt of your request. We will contact you if more information is required or we have questions regarding your request.
Should you have any questions, you may contact this office at 1-866-364-2872.
TSA FOIA Branch
Please see the attached correspondence regarding your request.
Your request for a fee waiver has been denied. Please notify the FOIA office how much you are willing to pay.
To Whom it May Concern,
I hereby appeal the denial of my fee waiver request on my FOIA request seeking copies of the PARIS, PIMS and PMIS databases, which I submitted Oct. 6 to the Transportation Security Agency.
1. You question whether the requested records concern "the operations or activities of the government." I am requesting copies of databases maintained by a government agency. Database maintenance is an activity -- or, if you like, an operation. Ipso fact, the requested records concern "the operations or activities of the government."
2. You question whether disclosing these records is "likely to contribute" to an understanding of government operations or activities. The TSA already recognizes the public benefit to releasing this information -- selectively, on a blog run by its public relations officers (see blog.tsa.gov). The TSA is slow-rolling my earlier request for a record layout of these databases (see FOIA request No. 2014-TSFO-00245, for which I *was* granted a fee waiver), which would allow me to explain in more precise terms the likely contribution to public understanding occasioned by the release of these records. It's unclear how you have determined that a journalist's analysis of passenger screening data would not help the traveling public better understand TSA's operations (and/or activities).
3. You question whether the disclosure of this information would contribute to the "understanding of the public at large" as opposed to my own prurient interest in passenger screening data. I am a journalist employed by the Omaha World-Herald. I intend to use this information to educate our readers about TSA's activities (and/or operations). According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 651 million people boarded domestic flights in the fiscal year that ended in June 2014. All of them spent a nontrivial amount of their travel time negotiating TSA security screenings. It's hard to see how they would not benefit from the release of this information. (It may be that people who don't fly also would learn something from our analysis, but that can't be helped.)
4. You question whether the contribution to public understanding will be "significant." I suppose that depends largely on my analytic and writing skills, and on how many people read our newspaper, but I don't recall anything in the Freedom of Information Act that says government information may be released on a no-fee basis only to the best writers at the largest news outlets. To my knowledge, this information never has been released in full; therefore, the contribution to the public's understanding of this aspect of the TSA's operations would be unprecedented, which is to say: significant.
5. You question whether I have a commercial (as opposed to public) interest in the disclosure of this information. I'm a journalist seeking to analyze and write about government operations (and/or activities) in articles available to the general public to benefit their understanding of government activities (and/or operations). I was granted a media-requester fee waiver on my last request to TSA. What's changed?
6. You question whether my commercial interest outweighs any public interest in these records. See my answer to your fifth objection. This is not a commercial request.
For these reasons, I request that you reverse your denial of my fee waiver request, and please take note my status as a member of the news media when processing future requests.
A letter stating that the request appeal has been rejected.