VerDate 0ct 09 2002
More importantly, there is a case going on right now which I think speaks to one of Tom’s points, and that is Cox Newspapers has been requesting from the Department of Justice a database of grants from the Federal Government to State and local law en- forcement. The reason they are looking for this is they have discov- ered in Georgia that there are several thousand illegal aliens who are—excuse me, in Georgia, several hundred illegal aliens who had been convicted of serious felonies and released but then not de- ported as they are required to be under Federal law, the reason being the immigration officials from the Federal Government just didn’t show up. And the suspicion obviously is that the reason the Department of Justice will not release this database is because they are afraid of the headlines that could result.
If they did release that, for the same reason that ‘‘Wanted’’ post- ers work in the post office, if these reporters had access to this database, private citizens and the media all over the country could help the government find these people who have committed serious crime.
Senator LEAHY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I worry about that very same thing, the number picked up, released.
Let me ask this question regarding the National Security Ar- chive. You are one of the most active users of FOIA in the nonprofit community. I am told by my staff you filed 30,000 requests, made six million pages of documents available. You have probably heard my story before about Bill Casey and stamp the newspaper top se- cret. But you sort of go across the board to a whole lot of different agencies. I mean, it might be Agriculture, it might be Justice, it might be anything else. Do you find a difference in the way agen- cies monitor and track their FOIA requests? Is there uniformity among agencies?
Ms. FUCHS. No, Senator Leahy, there is not uniformity amongst agencies, and in fact, it is some of those differences that really highlight why the proposals in the bill, such as the hotline and the tracking and monitoring, is so necessary.
What we have found in looking at over 35 Federal agencies is that they have completely different systems. Some are so decentral- ized that once you submit your FOIA request, you have absolutely no idea where it goes, whether it goes to another component of the agency, whether it gets referred out to another agency altogether, and there is no way of finding that out except by making many, many phone calls. You know, we have a full-time person who mon- itors our FOIA requests and we have a database in which we keep track of every FOIA request and what happens with it. But for most FOIA requestors, they don’t have the ability or the resources to do that.
I think that requiring agencies to acknowledge requests, requir- ing them to set up a FOIA hotline so you can find out where your requests are are critical for making the agencies be responsive. And frankly, I think it is going to reduce disputes and litigation, as well, because by having an agency let the FOIA requestor know, we have your request, it is in the line, we are taking care of it, this is our estimated completion time, people are going to feel that the government is responding to them.
09:04 Nov 08, 2005