DHS calls to clarify May 3rd FOIA request

May 22, 2011

Posted by Matt Ehling

On May 17th, Mia Day from the Privacy Office of the Department of Homeland Security left a message seeking clarification of the FOIA request that PRM submitted on May 3rd. I was able to call back on May 18th, and we spoke for several minutes.

Ms. Day inquired into whether I had any specific individuals in mind that might be connected to the request. I said that I did not.

Ms. Day stated that the Privacy office did not have any responsive records, and characterized the Privacy Office as a clearing-house that forwarded requests on to relevant DHS components. I noted that this was not what recent Associated Press stories had indicated, and that I was curious to discover if my 2010 FOIA request had been delayed by the vetting process described in the AP articles. I also noted that I was concerned about whether my March 28th request would be construed to cover the DHS Privacy Office, and that this caused me to submit another request on May 3rd.

Ms. Day stated that a search related to my May 3rd request would involve a search for Coast Guard assets, and that this would necessitate the involvement of the Coast Guard FOIA office.

I asked whether she could conduct a search for all records held by the Privacy Office that involved either my name, or Coast Guard FOIA request number 2010-2784. I said that I thought that there must be, at minimum, correspondence held by the Privacy Office that related to my March 28th request, since they had responded to it, and had indicated that they would pass it on to the Coast Guard.

Ms. Day said that she would conduct a search for the transfer letter to the Coast Guard.

I asked her if she could shed any light on what was occurring within the Coast Guard FOIA office, which had been unresponsive for so long. She said that all federal FOIA offices were overwhelmed with requests, and did not have the resources to respond adequately.

I mentioned that I had heard that this was the case, but had also heard stories that other factors might be accounting for FOIA delays.

We both agreed that the production of the Coast Guard transfer letter would be a good next step.