Monday, March 13, 2006

Slow Enough FOIA?

Freedom of Information Act requests are the genealogist's not-so-secret weapon: a way to shake loose documents that otherwise would gather dust in government storehouses for eternity (think back to the closing scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark). But with large increases in federal FOIA requests—and few incentives to expedite the process—the wait for documents has grown longer and longer. In the words of Charles Davis, head of the National FOI Coalition, "Federal FOIA is the water torture. It's just drip, drip, drip. You wait and you wait and you wait."

Many backlogs are lengthy. The most recent reports available from the 50 worst laggards show the median wait for a request to be handled ranges from about three months to more than four years, depending on the agency. The slowest federal agency is the National Archives, where officers explained most of their requests, pending for an average of 1,631 days, have to be reviewed by the originating agency for declassification before they can be released. [Link]
And if you're wondering how the Social Security Administration is doing processing your SS-5 request . . . keep wondering. The SSA was late turning in its FOIA report.

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