No Margaret Thatcher files before Feb 2015, at least

State Department gives no ironclad estimate on Iron Lady files

Written by Shawn Musgrave

After former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed away in April, MuckRock filed several FOIA requests with the usual agencies that deal extensively with foreign leaders. It looks like the files may start trickling in… more than a year from now.

The Secret Service has yet to even acknowledge our request, while the FBI estimates that it has 900 pages in its Iron Lady files. The CIA, meanwhile, has rejected our request outright.

The State Department, for its part, has inked out a timeline for winnowing through its files on Baroness Thatcher. According to the responding FOIA officer, State estimates that our request will be completed by February 2015. By that time, nearly two years will have passed since MuckRock first submitted our request.

Even this 18-month window does not provide enough wiggle room, it seems, for the State Department. The same officer explains the nuances of the non-binding estimation process:

Estimated completion dates are subject to change and are “strictly” estimates, not intended to be used as “actual” dates of completion. This is due to unusual circumstances, which may or may not include coordination with other Agencies during the process (referrals, concurrences, etc.).

Rather than wait for one omnibus cache at an as-yet indeterminate date, we’ve asked the State Department to publish documents as they process them in interim releases. For good measure, we’ve also requested a copy of the State Department’s methodology for estimating FOIA processing timelines, to get a better sense for just how these amorphous timelines are developed.

State Department Thatcher response

Read the first release has been embedded below, or on the request page.


Image via Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0