Feds Charge $522K for FOIA Request

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posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 02:56 PM
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Feds Charge $522K for FOIA Request


www.wired.com

The Treasury Department wants more than $500,000 to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request, a fee an attorney on the case suggested Tuesday might be one of the largest bills of its kind.

“I have not seen one that has been larger,” said Noah Wood, a Missouri attorney suing the government to comply with his nearly four-year-old FOIA request.

The Treasury Department, Wood said, is “downright telling us where we can stick it.”
(visit the link for the full news article)




posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 02:56 PM
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I find this outrageous, the FOIA should be intended to promote transparency in the government, to ensure they comply with the Laws that rule everyone else, and to make those in power accountable.

I wonder where this investigation of the "Libyan backed company" will lead?

With Libya's past support for terrorism, and the embargo that it has been under, this situation has got a scandal written all over it.

Seems the FBI is charging less, but is refusing to hand over the documents.

This Lawyer may have just kicked over an ant hill!






[edit on 11-11-2009 by kiwifoot]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:00 PM
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wow
I wonder where the money went!

makes you wonder of other such programs too



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:14 PM
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Learned something new today.

I always was under the impression that a FOIA would cost you a few bucks a page. Kinda like when you go to your courthouse and request copies of your documents. Was I wrong!

I wonder why they charge for staff if the staff is already being paid by taxpayers money and it is a taxpayer requesting the document?



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:17 PM
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Originally posted by ModernAcademia
wow
I wonder where the money went!

makes you wonder of other such programs too


I wish I had the money, I'd give it to this attorney just so they have to release the files.

What baffles me is that the government must surely know pulling a move like this will bring even more attention to the case!



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:23 PM
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Please refer to 5 U.S.C. 552 (a)(4)(a) which reads:



(4)(A)(i) In order to carry out the provisions of this section, each agency shall promulgate regulations, pursuant to notice and receipt of public comment, specifying the schedule of fees applicable to the processing of requests under this section and establishing procedures and guidelines for determining when such fees should be waived or reduced. Such schedule shall conform to the guidelines which shall be promulgated, pursuant to notice and receipt of public comment, by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and which shall provide for a uniform schedule of fees for all agencies.

(ii) Such agency regulations shall provide that--
(I) fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document search, duplication, and review, when records are requested for commercial use;
(II) fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document duplication when records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, whose purpose is scholarly or scientific research; or a representative of the news media; and
(III) for any request not described in (I) or (II), fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document search and duplication.

(iii) Documents shall be furnished without any charge or at a charge reduced below the fees established under clause (ii) if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

(iv) Fee schedules shall provide for the recovery of only the direct costs of search, duplication, or review. Review costs shall include only the direct costs incurred during the initial examination of a document for the purposes of determining whether the documents must be disclosed under this section and for the purposes of withholding any portions exempt from disclosure under this section. Review costs may not include any costs incurred in resolving issues of law or policy that may be raised in the course of processing a request under this section. No fee may be charged by any agency under this section--
(I) if the costs of routine collection and processing of the fee are likely to equal or exceed the amount of the fee; or
(II) for any request described in clause (ii)(II) or (III) of this subparagraph for the first two hours of search time or for the first one hundred pages of duplication.

(v) No agency may require advance payment of any fee unless the requester has previously failed to pay fees in a timely fashion, or the agency has determined that the fee will exceed $250.

(vi) Nothing in this subparagraph shall supersede fees chargeable under a statute specifically providing for setting the level of fees for particular types of records.

(vii) In any action by a requester regarding the waiver of fees under this section, the court shall determine the matter de novo, provided that the court's review of the matter shall be limited to the record before the agency.


What this means is that it is okay for any agency to charge a REASONABLE fee for private requests, especially when for commercial use, however, please note Section (iii) which states that when it is in the Public Interest, if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, the ability to charge a Reasonable Fee is waived under mandate.

So, if this were a Non-Profit Organization or the Media making this request of a government agency, it would be exempt from fees. However, as it is a private party asking for this information for commercial interests (acquiring owed Lawyer Fees), then it is not.

Granted, I personally would like to see an itemization of how $522,886 was determined under "Reasonable Fees" provision.

However, Noah Wood has legal recourse. Under Section (vii) he can petition the Courts to provide an exemption...otherwise, he can simply add the cost to his claim against the Libyan-backed assets he is asking for, as would normally be recognized by the Courts.



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:24 PM
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reply to post by jam321
 


I suppose they will have to go through all 2,523 pages of documents, with a black marker, and censor everything connecting this company with someone in Government, business or in the public eye.

I hope this makes it out to the MSM.

Like you say, i don't think this is how the FOIA was intended to be used!



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:30 PM
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reply to post by fraterormus
 


Are you saying this fee is justified, and that the FOIA was intended to be used like this?

I don't think any one is arguing about a fee of some sort, to cover the costs incurred though "document search and duplication", but this is ridiculous, and is nothing but an effort to stop the lawyer poking around where he isn't wanted.

It wouldn't take five government Lawyers, a YEAR to go over the documents, that's what it would cover, Oh, maybe an extra fifty bucks for the photocopying!





[edit on 11-11-2009 by kiwifoot]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:31 PM
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And you thought credit card interest rates and fees where high; seems the current FIOA fees by the Federals only reflects the serious bank failures.



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 03:49 PM
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As pointed out above, it's illegal for them to keep from releasing something under FOIA by charging a ridiculous amount of money for it to be released.

NIST did the same thing when a member here, Valhall, requested the 1000's of photos and video clips of the WTCs on 9/11 NIST had access to while doing their report. They can easily put data on CDs, even have their reports available on CDs, but wanted over $1000 from her before it would release them.



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 04:01 PM
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The following is my opinion as a member participating in this discussion.


The government said it was charging the “commercial” rate of 20 cents per page plus staff costs, and said the fees could go higher. Media and nonprofits usually are not charged.


It's a 2,523 page document... At $.20 a page, that's $504.60 plus "staff charges." I'm thinking that somehow a decimal place got shifted and the agency "accidentaly" charged $200.00 a page and nobody is willing to admit the mistake. (At $200 a page, the fee would become $504,600... far closer to the $522K they are charging for the information.) I can certainly understand charging the attorney for the information as it is clearly being requested to profit a private entity rather than to benefit the taxpayer or provide general knowledge... but $200 a page seems excessive.

As an ATS Staff Member, I will not moderate in threads such as this where I have participated as a member.



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 04:02 PM
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The FOIA Request Woods filed with the FBI came to $242.20 for 2,523 pages. At a rate of $0.09 cents per page, that meant the FBI charged him $15.13 in Base Pay for Search & Review time.

Granted, the Treasury Department charges $0.20 per page, and a Base Pay + 16% for Search & Review time, which is significantly higher than the FBI.

Still, for his original Treasury Department request, the $28,607 charge would equate to over 100,000 pages with approximately $6,000 in Base Pay + $960 (16%). This would mean that the Treasury Department is claiming that it would take basically 320 man hours to fulfill his request (2 full-time employees for one month).

So, assuming he isn't just being stone-walled...

That would mean the Treasury Department is anticipating his modified request to equate to roughly over 2,000,000 pages at $0.20 per page with approximately 5,465 man hours to fulfill his request ($102,480 in Base Pay +20,000 (16%)).

Is it that unreasonable to assume that it would take someone an hour to research & review 365 pages? His previous request seems to assume that they would take 16-17 pages per hour to process his request. Sounds like they aren't charging him for all that they could with his second request.


Again, assuming he isn't being stone-walled...

It perhaps would have been helpful had the Treasury Department clarified a breakdown to Woods of how many pages each of his modified requests roughly equated to. This would have allowed him to perhaps narrow his request into a financially reasonable request.

Again, as this request is for a commercial profit, he can simply add the cost to his Claim of Fees owed against the assets of the Respondent...or he can ask a Court to provide an exemption/waiver of the FOIA fees in this particular instance.

It doesn't seem to be unreasonable on behalf of the Treasury Department to me.

Although, then again, that assumes that the modified FOIA request Woods made would result in approximately 2,000,000 copies. If not, then it may be time for another Regulatory Audit.

Post-Script: The theory that this may have been a decimal placement error is a good one. Unfortunately I didn't see that post until after I finished typing mine. I think that is a viable possibility.

[edit on 11-11-2009 by fraterormus]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 04:09 PM
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Originally posted by burdman30ott6

The government said it was charging the “commercial” rate of 20 cents per page plus staff costs, and said the fees could go higher. Media and nonprofits usually are not charged.


It's a 2,523 page document... At $.20 a page, that's $504.60 plus "staff charges." I'm thinking that somehow a decimal place got shifted and the agency "accidentaly" charged $200.00 a page and nobody is willing to admit the mistake. (At $200 a page, the fee would become $504,600... far closer to the $522K they are charging for the information.) I can certainly understand charging the attorney for the information as it is clearly being requested to profit a private entity rather than to benefit the taxpayer or provide general knowledge... but $200 a page seems excessive.



Possibly,, but I get the impression from the article that it was a revision of an earlier request for $26,000, so it can't be a mistake, unless they made it twice, and failed to spot their error (and in fact made it worse!).

You would hope there is a simple reason like you proposed, but my Spidey Sense tells me something is afoot!


[edit on 11-11-2009 by kiwifoot]



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 04:48 PM
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reply to post by fraterormus
 


So whether this is a private party or a non-profit organization making the request, under what you quoted:


however, please note Section (iii) which states that when it is in the Public Interest, if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, the ability to charge a Reasonable Fee is waived under mandate


all a private party would have to do is prove that the release of the information was in the public interest. I suppose you would do that through a federal court?



posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 05:25 PM
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I was very fortunate to have requested personal documents and other information
(total of 35 pages) sent me for free.
from the former Department of Naturalization

Luckly, received before The DHS, 'homeland security' took over that slew of formerly stand-alone Departments.


In this present $503k mess for FOIA paperwork, The Treasury is likely not the only Agency that has pertinent papers/documents...
it's likely that the DHS, along with CIA, NSA and a few other Departments will need to research their data bases.

its not like checking out a library book, or going to a single filecabinet and pulling out a Dossier...

the gov't surely does not have a digital database on all the accumulated paperwork/microfilms/old technology photographs/etc. of the last 150+ years. [like the new under-construction, Digital Medical Database, being instituted together with the new health-care/insurance reforms]


believe me, i'm no apologist for the big-brother oligarchy


[edit on 11-11-2009 by St Udio]


MBF

posted on Nov, 11 2009 @ 05:49 PM
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I filed a FOIA request a few months back. I hope they don't charge me out the ying yang. I asked for all the documentation on a case I had filed a few years back that I don't think they even investigated.





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