MuckRock: The FBI’s FOIA portal restricts rights of requesters

Yesterday, when Mike Best broke the news that the FBI would be shutting down its FOIA email address and directing all online submissions through its online portal, a few people sensibly asked just how bad that portal could be. We’re here to tell you how bad.

Full disclosure: Some of MuckRock’s best friends have worked on building FOIA portals (hey, 18F!). We think that there’s room for well-designed government software to make life easier for requesters AND agencies. But the FBI’s eFOIA system appears to be designed explicitly not to be used.

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MuckRock: FBI quietly decides all FOIA requests over 50 pages are “complex”

Just six months ago, [MuckRock] reported that the FBI had quietly changed their FOIA processing queues without alerting anyone or updating their website. And now, once again, the Bureau has changed their standards for FOIA processing – before a request had to be 2,500 pages or more to be classified as large or complex. Now, without any announcement or update to the Bureau’s website, the number’s down to 51 pages.

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Editorial: When can the FBI use National Security Letters to spy on journalists? That’s classified.

Remember one year ago when then-Attorney General Eric Holder supposedly tightened restrictions on the Justice Department so it could not easily conduct surveillance on journalists’ emails and phone calls? Well it turns out the Justice Department inserted a large loophole in its internal rules that allows the FBI to completely circumvent those restrictions and spy on journalists in secrecy—and with absolutely no court oversight—using National Security Letters.

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