USUHS Tropical Medicine Training Materials Referencing Mefloquine

Remington Nevin filed this request with the Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America.
Tracking # 14-F-1492
Status
Completed

Communications

From: Remington Nevin

To Whom It May Concern:

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

Copies of all training materials, to include slides and handouts, produced for any iteration of the U.S. Military Tropical Medicine (MTM) course and the Training Program in Tropical Medicine and Traveler’s Health (MTM&H) course, offered by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics from July 2012 to the effective date of processing of this request, that reference the antimalarial drug mefloquine.

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,

Remington Nevin

From: Marye, Charles

Dear Remington Nevin: This is an interim response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated September 18, 2014, which was received in this office on September 18, 2014.  Your request has been assigned case number 14-F-1492 and we ask that you use that number when referring to your request. 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.
While the requested information does concern the operations and activities of the government and does not appear to be 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. As you did not provide any willingness to pay, search will be halted after your two free hours have been expended. If you wish to add a willingness to pay, please contact the action officer assigned to your request at your earliest convenience.
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; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) 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 1554 open requests.
If you would like to discuss how to limit your request in order to speed the processing time, we would be pleased to discuss how you might modify your request.  The action officer assigned to your request is Charles Marye at (571) 372-0407. The toll free number for this Office is 866-574-4970. You may not be aware that we maintain a website and electronic reading room at: http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/ 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 . As appropriate, your appeal should be postmarked within 60 calendar days of the date of this mail, should cite case number 14-F-1492, and should be clearly marked "Freedom of Information Act Appeal."
Thank you, Charles Marye Office of Freedom of Information
Department of Defense
1155 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1155
FAX: (571) 372-0500

From: Remington Nevin

OSD/Joint Staff Freedom of Information Office
ATTN: Appeals Office
1155 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1155

Re: Freedom of Information Act Appeal, Case #14-F-1492

This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby appeal the denial of my fee waiver request as described in your letter of September 24, 2014 on the basis that it can be demonstrated that disclosure of the requested information would substantially benefit the public interest, and additionally on the basis that your agency has failed to meet the statutory time limits in responding to this request absent plausible unusual or exceptional circumstances.

As described in the original FOIA request, the requested information consists of “[c]opies of all training materials, to include slides and handouts, produced for any iteration of the U.S. Military Tropical Medicine (MTM) course and the Training Program in Tropical Medicine and Traveler’s Health (MTM&H) course, offered by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics from July 2012 to the effective date of processing of this request, that reference the antimalarial drug mefloquine”. In substantiation of the claim that release of the requested information would benefit the public interest, it can be demonstrated that: 1. The requestor has utilized similar information to inform both Senate testimony and invited commentary to the Food and Drug Administration on the use of mefloquine within the Department of Defense, and 2. These efforts have led to widespread media attention focusing attention on patterns of widespread misprescribing of mefloquine within the Department of Defense, and the associated health risks of such misprescribing (see, e.g. popular media stories at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/elite-army-units-to-stop-taking-anti-malarial-drug/ and http://www.cbsnews.com/news/some-us-troops-haunted-by-anti-malaria-drugs-side-effects/ where the requestor is directly quoted).

These facts reasonably substantiate that release of the requested information to the requestor would constitute an act “significantly contributing to the public’s increased understanding of the operations and activities of government”.

In accordance with 5 USC § 552 (a)(4)(A)(ii)(II), fees or FOIA requests “shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document duplication when records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, whose purpose is scholarly or scientific research; or a representative of the news media. As such, should your agency deny my fee waiver request, this requestor would nonetheless be entitled to a waiver of any search fees, and the costs of your agency’s compliance with my request must be limited to the actual costs of duplication provided that your agency meets all the statutory time requirements in its response. However, as you are unable to meet the statutory time requirement, the provisions of
section 6 of the OPEN Government Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-175, 121 Stat. 2524, apply, including the provision that "[a]n agency shall not assess search fees (or in the case of a requester described under clause (ii)(II) [of 5 USC § 552 (a)(4)(A) as described above], duplication fees) . . . if the agency fails to comply with any time limit… if no unusual or exceptional circumstances… apply to the processing of the request."

Although your agency has claimed the existence of 3 “unusual circumstances” justifying the extraordinary delay in responding to this request, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B) permits your agency only an additional 10 days to respond to my request even in the presence of such “unusual circumstances”. Additionally, on the basis of the information requested, it is questionable whether each of the 3 claimed “unusual circumstances” identified by your office may reasonably apply to this particular request.

You note one “unusual circumstance” is the “potential volume of records responsive to your request. This request asks only for “[c]opies of all training materials, to include slides and handouts, produced for any iteration of the U.S. Military Tropical Medicine (MTM) course and the Training Program in Tropical Medicine and Traveler’s Health (MTM&H) course, offered by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics from July 2012 to the effective date of processing of this request, that reference the antimalarial drug mefloquine”. Although the MTM&H course is described online (see e.g. http://www.usuhs.mil/pmb/pdf/ASTMHCourseBrochure-2015.pdf) as consisting of “more than 300 contact hours”, and therefore at first examination might be considered a “large potential volume of records”, these contact hours are divided into a number of sub-courses, not all of which would be reasonably expected to yield responsive documents. As described online in a detailed FAQ (see e.g. http://www.usuhs.mil/pmb/documents/FAQ-StudentInfo2014-2015.docx ), those few sub-courses which might be expected to yield responsive records include “PMO 569 Malaria Epidemiology and Control”, “PMO 990 Travel Medicine”, “PMO 614 Tropical Medicine Rounds”, “PMO 661 Tropical Public Health Seminar”, and “PMO 613 Public Health Issues of Disasters”. In this regard, please consider this appeal as clarification to interpret the original FOIA request as limiting the “potential volume of records responsive” to this request to a standard keyword or text search on the words “mefloquine” and “Lariam” in any electronic training files from any iteration of the above-referenced sub-courses offered during the period requested. In the interests of brevity, please also consider this appeal as clarification to forgo any additional searching for responsive records in what was referred to in the original FOIA request as the “U.S. Military Tropical Medicine (MTM) course”.

You also note another “unusual circumstance” is the “need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office”. As this FOIA request asks only for copies of documents which are already distributed to enrolled students (see e.g. http://www.usuhs.mil/pmb/pdf/ASTMHCourseBrochure-2015.pdf), it is not plausible that these documents 1: would not already be organized and immediately accessible to a search of existing documents maintained by staff at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, and 2: would not readily producible within the statutory period through such a simple search. The mere geographic separation of your office from the physical campus of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, absent a geographically co-located FOIA office at this facility to respond to this request, is not sufficient to plausibly justify this as an “unusual circumstance”, particularly given the clarification to limit this request to a search of electronic training files.

You also note a final “unusual circumstance” is 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”. As this FOIA request asks only for copies of educational materials which have already been made freely available to students, including civilians lacking federal sponsorship, it is likely that the requested records have already been determined appropriate for unlimited release, and it is not plausible that 1: “further consultation with one or more agencies or DoD components” would be necessary to adjudicate this request, nor 2: that these agencies or components would have a “substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records”.

In conclusion, given that my request constitutes a request likely to “significantly [contribute] to the public’s increased understanding of the operations and activities of government”, and given that your office has failed to meet the statutory requirements of 5 U.S.C. § 552 in responding to my request in a timely manner, and absent plausible “unusual circumstances” to excuse this delay, I respectfully appeal the denial of my fee waiver request and ask that your office expeditiously respond to my original request and provide me the requested documents at no charge, as required by law.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,

Remington Nevin

From: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.

From: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense

An interim response, stating the request is being processed.

From: Remington Nevin

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on my Freedom of Information request, which you have assigned reference number #14-F-1492, and which I originally submitted on September 18, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Sept. 18, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #14-F-1492.

Thank you for your help.

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Nevin,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted in our interim response, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,554. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your case are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) 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. These 3 factors do have an impact on the processing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

At present I am waiting for the review of the records located to be completed.

Sincerely,

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Remington Nevin

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on my Freedom of Information request, originally submitted on Sept. 18, 2014, for "Copies of all training materials, to include slides and handouts, produced for any iteration of the U.S. Military Tropical Medicine (MTM) course and the Training Program in Tropical Medicine and Traveler’s Health (MTM&H) course, offered by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics from July 2012 to the effective date of processing of this request, that reference the antimalarial drug mefloquine".

You had assigned my request reference number #14-F-1492.

Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Sept. 18, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #14-F-1274.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Sept. 18, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #14-F-1274.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on Sept. 18, 2014. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #14-F-1274.

Thanks for your help, and let me know if further clarification is needed.

From: Remington Nevin

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on my Freedom of Information request, originally submitted on Sept. 18, 2014, for "Copies of all training materials, to include slides and handouts, produced for any iteration of the U.S. Military Tropical Medicine (MTM) course and the Training Program in Tropical Medicine and Traveler’s Health (MTM&H) course, offered by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics from July 2012 to the effective date of processing of this request, that reference the antimalarial drug mefloquine".

You had assigned my request reference number #14-F-1492.

Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: Remington Nevin

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on my Freedom of Information request, originally submitted on Sept. 18, 2014, for "Copies of all training materials, to include slides and handouts, produced for any iteration of the U.S. Military Tropical Medicine (MTM) course and the Training Program in Tropical Medicine and Traveler’s Health (MTM&H) course, offered by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics from July 2012 to the effective date of processing of this request, that reference the antimalarial drug mefloquine".

You had assigned my request reference number #14-F-1492.

Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense

A copy of documents responsive to the request.

From: Remington Nevin

Dear DoD FOIA Office,

Thank you very much for sending me documents responsive to request #14-F-1492. I consider this request closed and appreciate the effort.

Sincerely,

Dr. Remington Nevin

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Sir,
Cases 14-F-1492 and 14-F-1274 are both closed. Please turn off your automated system.

V/R

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense

A no responsive documents response.

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