Freedom of Information Act Operations at Six Department of Justice Units

GGD-83-64: Published: May 23, 1983. Publicly Released: Jun 1, 1983.

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GAO was asked to review certain aspects of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) operations at selected Department of Justice headquarters units, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

GAO found that responses to FOIA requests by these units took longer than the 10-day response time required by the act. Without completely automating or centralizing records or making responses to FOIA requests a top priority, significant improvements in the timeliness of responses to FOIA requests do not seem feasible. In summary, GAO found that: (1) the six units reviewed determined FOIA processing priorities informally; (2) according to unit officials, no processing deadlines other than the 10 working days prescribed in the FOIA had been set; (3) primary factors contributing to delays in processing FOIA requests were decentralized records, the volume of requested material, and the sensitivity of law enforcement information; (4) it could not assess the effects of practices and procedures for waiving fees because separate records were not kept on requests involving fee waivers; (5) Justice did not formally respond to the Justice Management Division's 1980 internal evaluation of FOIA activities nor was a response requested; and (6) resources and policy involving FOIA activities have not changed significantly in recent years.

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