The State Department has taken over four years on a FOIA request about how long it takes to process FOIA requests

The State Department has taken over four years on a FOIA request about how long it takes to process FOIA requests

Agency has revised the estimated completion date for its estimated completion date methodology seven times

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

Back in 2013, a young Shawn Musgrave filed a FOIA request with the State Department for its cables regarding former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. To his surprise, he was given an estimated completion date (ECD) of December 2015 - a full 18 months of processing time.

Curious about where the agency got that oddly specific number from - and with plenty of time on his hands - Shawn filed a follow-up request for any documentation outlining State’s methodology for estimating FOIA completion date. This is on August 5th, 2013, and he gets an acknowledgement back August 8th, just three days later.

Don’t get used to that kind of timeliness.

Two months later, he’s given his first ECD for this request - December 2013.

Only a few months of processing, perfectly reasonable for operational manuals that FOIA officers should have easily accessible.

Except apparently not, because come December, he’s given a new ECD - May 2014.

Well, okay, we should cut them some slack - as they said, there are extenuating factors, and if they feel they need another five months, that’s shouldn’t be too big of deal, so long as they-

Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.

December 2014. A full year since the initial filing. Alright, not great, but how much longer could it take, really?

Oh, come on! Now you’re just being ridiculous, State - the original ECD for the Thatcher docs was February 2015. How could this be a month harder to process than that? Why not just go ahead and take the rest of the year if you’re feeling swamped.

Wait, no, it was a joke, don’t-

Nooooooo. Why are you doing this? Are you just messing with us?

You are just messing us, aren’t you!

Come on, that’s not even a date!

Alright, that’s better.

Wait, no it’s not, that’s actually much worse - how do could you possibly need until June? You finally released the Thatcher docs that started this whole mess in May!

… Are we dead? Is this Hell?


It’s October 2016. Shawn Musgrave is a sadder and a wiser man. And we are still waiting for the State Department to tell us how long it takes to process its FOIA requests.

Maybe we’ll wait forever. Maybe we’ve always been waiting.

Or maybe the State Department can hire some new FOIA officers already. Jeez.

Image via Wikimedia Commons