Late February 2015, I was contacted by Dave Maass, Investigative Researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who was busy preparing to celebrate Sunshine Week with a wonderful series of articles highlighting the struggles that both professionals and laypersons face week seeking to exercise their right to government transparency. If you didn't already know, Sunshine Week is, as described so vividly by Dave himself, the “time of year when journalists, citizen watchdogs, community activists, data wizards, political gadflies, public-records litigators, and open-gov fanatics come together to champion the cause of transparency and commiserate over the obstacles we face everyday while chasing sunlight.” For those interested (which should be everyone) Sunshine Week occurs on the third week of March, every year with next Sunshine Week occurring from March 13th to 19th, 2016. Learn more here.
To highlight these struggles, Dave, along with the great people at the Sunlight Foundation, MuckRock, and the FOIA Rundown, put together a series of articles awarding “The Foilies” to government agencies who have provided for “some of most absurd, frustrating, and outrageous interactions with the government that the transparency community experienced in 2014.” Coming in four (4) parts, Dave’s series begins by awarding what he termed “Process Foilies” to highlight the all too common instance of “the public-records process itself” getting “in the way of transparency, whether [by] exorbitant fees, epochal waiting periods, or institutional indifference.”
One recipient of Dave’s Process Foilies was the FBI’s “Soggiest Records.” According to Dave’s write-up, “Kevin Savetz of AtariPodcast.com wanted to see if the FBI has investigated Atari or Mattel.” Somehow unsurprisingly, both Savetz and I received a similar response: “On September 8, 2011, the facility where the records are stored suffered a catastrophic flood that temporarily prohibits access to these records. Remediation is ongoing for the records stored in this facility. Unfortunately, we are unable to determine if, or when, these records will be available for review.” This was only the beginning however. As explained in Dave’s article, and more fully hereinafter (I had to throw in the legalese, forgive me), subsequent appeals and FOIA requests for documents relating to this “catastrophic flood” have proven fruitless to date. In fact, it has been approximately seven (7) months since the FBI has received Madison & Associates secondary FOIA request for “records pertaining to risk management reports, damage assessments, costs associated with remediation, method of remediation, anticipated timeline for completion of the remediation, and/or reports pertaining to, or outlining, the cause of the flood and subsequent damage.”
For a more detailed summary of the FBI flood debacle visit our post on the topic, complete with all associated documents, here [This link is pending editing and may not be active. Check back later]. Also be sure to check out Dave Maass' four (4) part series here: