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THE ASHCROFT MEMO:

"Drastic" Change or
"More Thunder Than Lightning"?

 

The National Security Archive
Freedom of Information Act Audit

Phase One Presented March 14, 2003

2003 National Freedom of Information Day Conference

 

 
Introduction
Executive Summary
Methodology
Findings Regarding Implementation of Attorney General Guidance Regarding FOIA
Preliminary Findings Regarding Implementation of White House Guidance Regarding FOIA and Classification
Findings Regarding Administration Openness/Secrecy Agenda
Findings Regarding Administrative Processing of FOIA Requests
Further Research
 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Findings Regarding Implementation of Attorney General Ashcroft's FOIA Memorandum:

  • 5 of 33 Federal departments or agencies surveyed (15 %) indicated significant changes in regulations, guidance, and training materials and that the Ashcroft Memorandum was widely disseminated.
  • 8 of 33 Federal departments or agencies surveyed (24 %) indicated implementation activities concerning the Ashcroft Memo, including its dissemination and incorporation into FOIA regulations and procedures.
  • 17 of 33 Federal departments or agencies surveyed (52 %) indicated awareness and dissemination of the Ashcroft Memo, but indicated little change in regulations, guidance or training materials reflecting the new policy.
  • 3 of 33 Federal departments or agencies surveyed (9 %) indicated no changes in regulations, guidance or training materials, and little if no dissemination of the Ashcroft Memorandum.

Findings Regarding Administrative Processing of FOIA Requests:

  • Inaccurate or incomplete information about agency FOIA contacts.
  • Failure to acknowledge requests.
  • Lost requests.
  • Excessive Backlogs.
  • Complete Decentralization Leading to Delay and Lack of Oversight.
  • Inconsistent Practices Regarding the Acceptance of Administrative Appeals.
  • Appealing FOIA Determinations May Delay Processing, But Also May Get The Agency's Attention.
  • Conflation of Fee Categorization and Fee Waiver Standards.

Pending: Audit Regarding Implementation Of White House Memorandum; Only 13 Of 35 Agencies Have Responded To Date.

Pending: Audit Of "10 Oldest" Requests; Only 15 Of 35 Agencies Have Responded To Date.

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