Sometimes the government is slow to act, and then there are times when it is glacial.
The conservative government accountability organization Judicial Watch recently received an official response letter to a Freedom of Information Act (FIOA) request the group submitted in September 2002 — nearly 11 years ago.
“It is a sad reminder that when it comes to being accountable, when it comes to following the law, the federal government doesn’t give a rat’s tail,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton told The Daily Caller. “And this is why we have had to sue well over a hundred times to get access to government information.”
The initial request to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency, which languished under both the Bush and Obama administrations, was part of a larger Judicial Watch project looking into the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“It’s quite common for federal agencies as well as the White House to flip the finger at FOIA requests that could expose wrongdoing or shed a negative light,” Judicial Watch wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “In fact, JW often must file lawsuits to get ‘public’ records that should not require litigation to obtain. In this particular case, it took the DIA and NSA a whopping 11 years to determine that the information falls under the ‘release authority’ of a different agency—the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).”
In their letter to Judicial Watch, NCIS apologized for the delayed response and noted they had only received the request on March 21, 2013, after NSA referred the documents and request to their office.
“We apologize for the delay in processing your request. We are unable to provide you a final determination on your request within the 20 working day statutory time frame established by the FIOA because the referred documents require a classification review,” an NCIS official wrote in the letter to Judicial Watch.
“Accordingly, I find that we must invoke the additional ten working day extension provision. … Your request has been places in our complex queue. At this time, we are unable to provide you an approximate completion date,” the official added. “We will send you an update regarding your request once the review process is complete.”
The letter went on to note that since it was beyond the 20-day timeframe, Judicial Watch may appeal the decision with the judge advocate general of the Navy.
Fitton added that normally Judicial Watch does not publish or highlight response letters. However, he said the extended timeframe was “extraordinary.”