Putting TRAC to Work
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The Washington Post
May 29, 2015

Which agencies actually will respond to your requests for info — and which won’t
By Al Kamen

Anyone who’s tried to get information from the government knows that some agencies will get back to you within a reasonable time, at least to let you know they’re working on it, and then send the info in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Others, such as the State Department, have been known to ignore you for years, while others just stiff you outright. Now the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, a 26-year-old nonprofit, decided to test 21 various agencies’ responses to requests for documents under that act. First, they sent identical requests on the same days (either Jan. 22 or Jan. 23) and made those requests as simple as possible. So they didn’t ask, for example, for information that might need to be partially censored for some sensitive national security or other reason. They only asked for lists that the agencies are supposed to maintain, in a basic requirement of the law, of what other folks have requested. “Proof that the request was, indeed, a simple one, came in just nine days,” TRAC co-directors Susan B. Long and David Burnham recently wrote the House Oversight committee, “when we received data” from the Department of Homeland Security headquarters.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2015
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