About a month ago, we launched Managing FOIA, a blog to chronicle our experience with the FOIA process at several agencies. In particular, we were interested in comparing how the process worked at agencies participating in FOIAonline, the new shared service website developed by the Environmental Protection Agency to make it easier for the public to request and receive government records at participating agencies, with other agencies.
As we reported a few weeks ago, keeping track of requests made using FOIAonline is definitely easier. Another of the benefits of the system is supposed to be that everything from making your request to downloading the information can be done online, meaning requesters do not have to wait for the mail to be delivered and any released records can be easily shared electronically. It is up to the agency participating in the system to take advantage of this benefit, however. The Merit Services Protection Board, one of the three agencies participating in FOIAonline that we sent requests to, still opted to print out their response and send us the responsive records in the mail. The other two requests we made using FOIAonline are still pending.
We have had even more surprising responses from agencies that are not participating in FOIAonline. Here are some of the things that have happened that have left us scratching our head: ...