Over the weekend, a Freedom of Information Act request I submitted to the Defense Intelligence Agency turned 600 days old, and it seems even a sitting member of Congress has little influence over how officials inside the spy agency regard a citizen’s right to know unclassified details about government contracts related to the purchase of polygraph machines.
THE INITIAL FOIA REQUEST: The unclassified information DIA officials are so reluctant to provide is described below as it appeared in my FOIA request July 16, 2012:
“…copies of any and all initial and follow-up contracts (i.e., solicitations, contracts, statements of work and task orders) related to the Portable Credibility Assessment Screening System (PCASS) or Preliminary Credibility Assessment Screening System (PCASS) that have been awarded by any Department of Defense Agency to Lafayette Instrument Company of Lafayette, Indiana, and any other contractors, academic institutions, laboratories and subcontractors from January 1, 2000, to present.”
THE DIA RESPONSE & MY APPEAL: In a piece May 24, 2013, I described how DIA’s response to my FOIA request fell far short of expectations by providing only 12 pages of documentation dating back only as far as June 25, 2010 — not Jan. 1, 2000, as requested — and how, coincidentally or not, the agency’s response arrived one week after the release of my second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, for which I was seeking the information. In addition, I highlighted a portion (below) of the appeal letter I mailed the same day:
In responding to my request, you included only 12 pages of documentation dating back as far as June 25, 2010. That, by any stretch of the imagination, is UNSATISFACTORY; therefore, I must contest the $155.80 assessment for “professional search and review time of 3.5 hours at $44.00 per hour, reproduction and release costs of 12 pages at 15¢ per page.” Until such time as a genuine effort is made on behalf of your agency to provide the requested documentation, I shall not remit payment as requested.
THE LATEST NEWS ABOUT THE APPEAL PROCESS: Twenty-four days after my last update about this never-ending saga, I received a message from Erin Olson, a staffer in the office of U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.). She informed me that my representative in the House of Representatives had received a response to her Jan. 15 inquiry written on my behalf about my FOIA request. That response, from DIA Chief of Congressional Relations James L. Kaplan, was dated Feb. 28 and received in Representative Wagner’s office March 3. It began as follows:
Thank you for sharing your January 15, 2014, correspondence with Mr. Bob McCarty of St. Charles, MO and for your interest in the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies. DIA takes its open government obligations very seriously and attempts to provide a level of service that will satisfy the requester community. There are certainly instances where DIA is not able to provide service at a speed that satisfies the individual requester. It is common that DIA must assert exemptions under the FOIA that the requester does not agree with. In either situation, this Agency wants to provide the requester the fullest access possible at the greatest speed possible.
In two paragraphs that followed, the DIA official claimed I had not filed an appeal May 24, 2013, before stating that DIA FOIA officials “decided to treat the electronic mail correspondence from Mr. McCarty to the DIA Office of the General Counsel as authority to initiate this administrative appeal.” Soon after, he patronized the congresswoman some more:
That appeal is being reviewed by DIA, a process that involves the re-examination of the search for responsive records and the review of any records previously processed for release. This appellate procedure takes time to conclude, but I can certainly understand Mr. McCarty’s frustration with the length of time it has taken to resolve his request and his appeal.
I assure you that Mr. McCarty’s administrative appeal is being handled by DIA according to its established procedures, which must factor in the re-review of the matter and the processing of other appeals received prior to his. DIA will provide a response as soon as possible. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have further questions.
After 602 days of waiting, I think it’s time to change the procedures.
Want to know why I’m so interested in reading government contract documents related to the purchases of polygraph equipment? You an begin to understand by reading endorsements of my book. For an in-depth understanding, however, you’ll have to ORDER A COPY and read THE CLAPPER MEMO.