Pre-determination agency actions

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The FOIA Process

Making a FOIA Request

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Pre-determination communications

Pre-determination agency actions

Determinations

Releasing Records

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Administrative Appeals and/or OGIS

Litigation

Introduction

Agencies may take a variety of steps in processing a FOIA request before a determination is made, including categorizing requests, searching for records, and consulting with other agencies on whether records or portions thereof are exempt.

Accepting requests

Agencies usually accept FOIA requests in a variety of ways, including by post, fax, and email. Specific information on how each agency accepts requests can be found at the Agencies Landing Page.

Aggregating requests

The FOIA provides that “[m]ultiple requests involving unrelated matters shall not be aggregated” into one request by the agency.[1] However, the statute also provides that an agency may treat multiple requests as one where it receives “requests by the same requestor, or by a group of requestors acting in concert, if the agency reasonably believes that such requests actually constitute a single request, which would otherwise satisfy the unusual circumstances specified [in FOIA], and the requests involve clearly related matters.”[2]

Multitrack processing

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Searching for records

See also: sufficiency of an agency's search

Agencies have a duty to liberally construe FOIA requests to ensure responsive records are found.[3] To fulfill its search obligations, an agency must “demonstrate beyond material doubt that its search was reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.”[4] Under this standard, the question is not

"whether there might exist any other documents possibly responsive to the request, but rather whether the search for those documents was adequate. The adequacy of the search, in turn, is judged by a standard of reasonableness and depends, not surprisingly, upon the facts of each case. In demonstrating the adequacy of the search, the agency may rely upon reasonably detailed, nonconclusory affidavits submitted in good faith."[5]

Nonetheless, an agency “cannot limit its search to only one or more places if there are additional sources that are likely to turn up the information requested.”[6]

For more detail, see the page on sufficiency of an agency's search.

Consultations/Referrals

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See Also

External Links

References

  1. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B)(iv).
  2. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B)(iv).
  3. See Nation Magazine v. United States Customs Serv., 71 F.3d 885, 890 (D.C. Cir. 1995).
  4. Valencia-Lucena v. United States Coast Guard, FOIA/PA Records Mgmt., 180 F.3d 321, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). See also Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. United States Dep't of State, 641 F.3d 504, 514 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (“An agency is required to perform more than a perfunctory search in response to a FOIA request.”).
  5. Steinberg v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 23 F.3d 548, 551 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (citing Weisberg v. Dep't. of Justice, 745 F.2d 1476, 1485 (D.C.Cir.1984))
  6. Valencia-Lucenam 180 F.3d at 326 (citing Oglesby v. United States Dep’t of the Army, 920 F.2d 57, 68 (D.C. Cir. 1990)) (internal quotations omitted).