Gunleaders Blog

DOJ requesting more comments on proposed FOIA rule changes

by on Sep.21, 2011, under Uncategorized

The Department of Justice proposed FOIA rule changes back in March of 2011 and the comment period has been re-opened and extended through October 19, 2011.  There are substantial changes proposed for the FOIA application & rules at DOJ. This has implications for the blogosphere, NFA community & various other RKBA supporters.

The original entry in the Federal Register  is here: (very long)

The DOJ is soliciting public comments and you should comment.  The inventory page for this rule is at:   You can review the other comments submitted, as well as submit your own comments.  There are several changes being attempted, some of which seem benign.  Others are not.

In particular Fee changes are detailed in section 16.10 in the notice.  The duplication charge for photocopying will decrease to five cents a page, while document search and review charges will increase to $16.50 and $13.00 per quarter hour for professional and administrative time, respectively. The amount at or below which the Department will not charge a fee will increase from $14.00 to $25.00.  As the comments submitted by OMB Watch point out, “These [fee increase] changes would replace charges per quarter hour of $4.00 for clerical personnel, $7.00 for professional personnel, and $10.25 for managerial personnel with a new fee structure of $13.00 for administrative personnel and $16.50 for professional personnel.

These changes could increase fees by as much as $36 per hour, an increase of 225 percent.

There have been some informative comments already by advocacy groups but also by the NARA Office of Government Information Services.  They made some significant recommendations on several proposed changes.  The impact of the fees above – A government secretary or intern will cost almost 1 US Dollar per minute to process FOIA requests!  under the proposed rule change.

Just to put things in perspective a September, 2011 OIG report shows the DOJ spent lavishly on “conferences” from 2007 – 2009, spending 4.4 MILLION dollars on just 10 conferences. Anyone in the computer / IT field knows that these conferences vary in their effectiveness and they are largely “meet and greet” working vacations on the taxpayer’s dime.

USRKBA believes that rather than fee increases, fee decreases are in order.

Please take the time to submit a comment  on the proposed DOJ FOIA rules.

*  FOIA fee increases should be stricken.  Given the DOJ poor stewardship of taxpayer money & outright wasteful spending, as pointed out in the OIG report DOJ clearly has a surplus of money.  Accordingly, Fees for document search and review for professional and administrative time should be reduced to $3.50 & $4.60 per quarter hour respectively.

The NARA OGIS submitted comments contain many good points.  Feel free to copy as many as you agree with and add to your own comments.


Some examples:

(c) Description of records sought.

OGIS recommends that DOJ address the new requirements in 5 U.S.C. 552 § (a)(6)(A)(ii)(I) that agencies may make one request to requesters for information pertaining generally to the request and toll the 20-day period while it awaits a reply. (See “OIP Guidance: New Limitations on Tolling the FOIA’s Response Time,” FOIA Post, November 18, 2008

e) Markings on released documents.

OGIS recommends that DOJ specifically address the new requirements in 5 U.S.C. 552 § (b) that agencies shall (1) indicate, if technically feasible, the amount of information deleted and the exemption under which the deletion is made at the place in the record where the deletion is made, and (2) indicate the exemption under which a deletion is made on the released portion of the record, unless including that indication would harm an interest protected by the exemption.

(k) Requirements for waiver or reduction of fees.

OGIS suggests DOJ consider adding a broader provision that allows for waiving fees generally “as a matter of administrative discretion.”  For example, the CIA’s FOIA regulations allow administrative discretion to release records without charge or at a reduced rate whenever the Agency determines “[t]hat, as a matter of administrative discretion, the interest of the United States Government would be served.” ( OGIS has seen fee disputes that have consumed agency resources that in the end were not worth fighting, serving only to waste agency resources and delay release of requested documents. OGIS suggests this in the interest of better serving FOIA and making government more efficient.


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