CIA Proposed Rule on FOIA Fees Would Burden Requesters and the Agency National Security Archive Warns that Fee Disputes Obstruct Open Government

National Security Archive Comments on Proposed CIA FOIA Fee Regulations(PDF – 135 KB) National Security Archive FOIA page Washington DC, February 7, 2007 – The CIA’s proposed new rule on Freedom of Information Act processing fees is likely to discourage FOIA requesters while imposing new administrative burdens both on the Agency and the public, according to formal comments filed with the CIA today by the National Security Archive of George Washington University. The Archive’s general counsel, Meredith Fuchs, commented that, “Significant time, money, and other resources were spent by the CIA on fee disputes last year. One of those disputes involved the CIA’s refusal to abide by a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judicial decision about the Archive’s fee status. Given that the Agency recouped only $4,732.80 in fees in FY 2006, those disputes served mainly to delay and obstruct FOIA requests.” The Archive recommended that the Agency change its proposed rule to: (1) eliminate the unnecessary and improper definitions of FOIA requester categories; (2) eliminate the requirement that all requesters make open-ended, written fee commitments because many FOIA requests can be processed without the requester incurring any fees and the CIA proposal would discourage requesters and add to the Agency’s administrative processing time; (3) eliminate the illegal provision mandating prepayment of fees before the CIA will honor form or format requests; (4) revise the proposed duplication fees provisions so that requesters pay only those “direct costs” actually incurred in the processing of the individual request, whether for paper or electronic duplication; and (5) revise the public interest fee waiver provisions to follow the letter and intent of the FOIA to promote dissemination of information in the public interest. The Archive has had to sue the CIA twice over FOIA fee issues, despite the D.C. Circuit’s definitive 1989 ruling in the Archive’s favor. The most recent case, filed in 2006, covered 42 FOIA requests that the CIA deemed not to be “newsworthy”; only after the Archive filed its legal complaint and a motion for summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did the CIA reverse course on the 42 requests, but even then fell short of committing to abide by the judicial precedents. Click here for more