What troublesome FOIA practices have you seen agencies use?
Have you seen an agency with a “worst practice”? Share it below, linking to the request if filed through MuckRock or any relevant links. This space is to categorize worst practices and recurring problems that discourage requesters in general, and not problems with any particular request.
Definitely the FBI’s FOIA system and their insistence of only searching the central records database at times. The FOIA search should be equivalent to a search by an FBI agent searching for information on a matter. If FBI agents really only used the central records database, then no one we haven’t had much clearance of the Top Ten Most Wanted compared to previous decades.
I’m pretty sure our national security agencies FOIA systems are designed to be terrible.
Edit: I’m still waiting for a response on several Secret Service requests I’ve sent out. They must have a terrible backlog.
Agencies Which Require FOIA Requests to be Signed
The vast majority of agencies accept requests electronically or via paper. A few, however, have a requirement that a request be physically signed. This generally prevents requesters from filing requests electronically. We’re hand compiling a list of agencies that engage in this process, as well as the less-burdenson requirement of requesters including an “electronic signature”, which generally takes the form of “/John Doe/”.
Agencies which require physical signatures
Agencies Which Require Regular Confirmation of Interest
U.S. National Central Bureau of United States of America (Citation)
The NSA’s apparent inability to search their contracts by “key word” is definitely troublesome.
foiaonline.regulations.gov I must add that I wish that all agencies used the above portal.
The improper referral is most worrisome to me. I don’t find specific statutory language, DOJ guidance, or other items that could easily be leveraged to stop this practice. The agency referring closes the case and the agency receiving it doesn’t have the records so they reply ‘nothing found’ and closes the case. What can a requestor do? Submitting a duplicate can get you on the ‘disregard’ list.