Thursday, April 24, 2014
 

Transparency shutdown: which FOIA offices are on ice?

Army, CIA, EPA, FDA and more turn off their faxes and lock down inboxes

FOI Requests:

The government shutdown that took effect on Tuesday has had widespread impact on a variety of public services and infrastructure. This includes a number of FOIA offices that have gone dark, a number of which have vowed to resume processing requests once a compromise is reached.

MuckRock reported the immediate shutdown response from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday.

The EPA FOIA office set up an auto-response for requesters:

"This message is to inform you that all FOIA processing at EPA is suspended due to the shutdown of the federal government. We will begin processing your request when normal government operations resume.

Jonathan V. Newton, Attorney-Advisor U.S. EPA, Office of the Executive Secretariat.

The Nation Labor Relations Board advised, "Unfortunately, there will be a delay in our responding to your request due to circumstances we cannot control."

The Bureau of Reclamation begged off similarly with a direct response that "no FOIA requests can be processed at this time." The Navy FOIA office provided a bit more information, responding that "reduction of staffing due to furlough has required that many offices reallocate the majority of their available resources towards backlog reduction in order to maintain 'first in, first out' processing of requests."

Other agencies signaled their suspended operations by extending the shutdown to their fax machines: FOIAs sent to both the CIA and FDA were returned as undeliverable. [Of note, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, whose tribulations with its own single fax machine MuckRock covered exhaustively a couple of weeks ago, confirmed receipt of all faxed requests and follow-ups.]


While a number of federal websites have gone entirely dark, the National Security Agency has kept its FOIA page online, albeit with a disclaimer:

NSA website FOIA freeze

Here's a list of all agencies that MuckRock has confirmed have frozen their FOIA teams due to the shutdown:

  • Army (including the Army Auditing Agency)
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • National Labor Relations Board

Help us build out this list -- if you've received an auto-response or notification of failed fax, let us know (info@muckrock.com or @MuckRockNews).

If you eat, breathe and dream FOIA, join our mailing list, follow us on Twitter, or "Like" us on Facebook. Or better yet, register with MuckRock today and start filing your own requests. On the plus side, there's still tens of thousands of state and local governments accepting requests!

 
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