Putting TRAC to Work
July 28, 2017

Questions About FOIA and E-Discovery? Look No Further!
By Jim Gill

Why are FOIA Requests so Challenging? For starters, there are a lot of them. As described above, there are fairly loose restrictions around FOIA, so it's not very difficult for someone to submit a request (investigative journalists, for example, do it all the time). The numbers bear that out. Last year, more than 700,000 FOIA requests were issued in the United States. Nearly 160,000 of those have yet to be fulfilled (see more stats on the official FOIA website). The FOIA Project ran an experiment in which they submitted a basic FOIA request to 21 federal agencies to gauge response rates. More than two months after the requests were submitted, only seven agencies had adequately responded by providing records. Clearly, governmental agencies are having a difficult time keeping pace. But they aren't doing themselves any favors either. Generally, federal agencies are woefully inefficient when it comes to managing their electronic records (something that has been noted by the Obama administration). Consequently, it can be very difficult for these agencies to find the specific documents that get requested. Making matters worse, federal agencies are awash in electronic data. Not only are they constantly producing and collecting data, but many agencies are obligated to retain just about everything in perpetuity, so there is a lot to sort through when a FOIA request comes rolling in.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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