Timeliness and Completeness of FBI Responses to Requests Under Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts Have Improved

GGD-78-51: Published: Apr 10, 1978. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 1978.

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The Freedom of Information Act directed that the public have access to the information in the files of executive branch agencies, with certain exceptions. Because of dissatisfaction with the way the act was implemented, Congress amended it to limit the government's authority to withhold certain kinds of information, strengthen the public's right to obtain information from federal records, and speed public access to federal government records. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has received almost 48,000 requests for information since 1975 and has accumulated a sizable backlog of requests.

Delays in processing requests were caused by limited staffing and a fragmented and ineffective processing system. The following improvements to the processing system have resulted in more efficient and timely processing reorganization of management structure, specialization of processing activities, increased personnel, elimination of some review levels, more efficient correspondence with requesters, simplifications in the excising process, and improved personnel training. Even with the improvements, FBI still cannot meet the 10-day time limit imposed by the Freedom of Information Act. Problems continue to exist concerning the exemptions to the act; these problems include determining what constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy, what constitutes a confidential source, and what information should be provided in pending investigations.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Attorney General should require: (1) FBI to reduce the drain on its investigative resources by using analysts instead of special agents to supervise the processing of requests; (2) FBI and other Department components to be more responsive to requesters by providing additional information on items such as the number of pages in a file, the number of pages denied, and by noting the exceptions used to withhold information; (3) FBI and other Department components to avoid the practice of charging fees in cases where billing costs exceed the charges assessed; and (4) the Office of Privacy and Information Appeals to reduce inconsistencies in the amount of information released by improving guidelines and oversight. Congress should change the time requirement for FBI responses to Freedom of Information requests.


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