By all rights, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General owes The News a cake. Or at least a card with a pithy joke.
Today marks the first anniversary of a Freedom of Information Act request we made with DHS OIG regarding misconduct by Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers officials.
It was a relatively simple request, “seeking the full DHS OIG reports on FLETC misconduct from the following cases: I16-FLETC-SID-04514, I17-FLETC-SID-03172 and I17-FLETC-SID-06112.”
Seventeen days later — without sending an email, a letter, making a phone call or dispatching a carrier pigeon — DHS OIG released a significantly redacted report on its website regarding the three cases, but to our knowledge, has yet to release anything involving the cases individually or any documents going into further detail.
Despite our best attempts, we may not have known about this release until well after the fact, if not for the assistance of an anonymous source.
The report made public criticisms of actions taken by former FLETC Director Connie Patrick and other senior staff at Glynco regarding a number of alleged offenses, including misuse of public money, property or records; false claims; prohibited personnel practices; and ethical conduct violations between Jan. 2, 2016 and April 17, 2017.
The News printed a story on this report July 16, 2018, headlined, “Report: FLETC senior management dysfunctional.” A copy of the report was also uploaded to The News’ website.
Emails received by The News from a source with purported knowledge of the situation indicate there could be more to what was included in the report, but it’s not known if there are more documents available to flesh out these claims.
It’s not known whether the report released to the public — again, without providing notice to The News, which asked for documents related to these specific cases — is as far as what can be provided to the public about actions committed by officers of their government.
What the DHS OIG offers instead is a webpage to check the status of the FOIA request. Go to dhs.gov/foia-status, enter in the request number (2018-IGFO-00138), and it provides you with the listing below.
The number you entered is 2018-IGFO-00138
Request Number: 2018-IGFO-00138
Received Date: 06/11/2018
Request Status: Assigned
Estimated Delivery Date: 07/15/2018
The pertinent statuses here are the estimated delivery date, which eclipses its one-year anniversary next month, and the closed date, which shows the request remains open.
On the same page DHS OIG provides this information, it also lists response time numbers that surely have a basis in reality, but in this matter, feel like so much cold comfort.
It states, “DHS Requests Response Time for Processed and Pending Requests — Average No. of Days Simple is 21.24 Days and Complex is 111.59 Days. For component specific response times, please refer to the latest FOIA annual report.”
DHS’s 2018 FOIA annual report, completed in March, notes the agency receives and processes “the largest number of FOIA requests of any federal department or agency, annually receiving and processing almost 40 percent of all requests within the federal government.”
We empathize with the DHS on this, but it’s also the department for many of the Trump administration’s highest-profile and most-controversial actions, so it should be allowed by the White House and Congress to staff up appropriately in order to, again, provide public documents to the public.
And that’s not just with DHS, but across the federal government, the agencies of the people should be responsive to the people. Even in the DHS’ FOIA report, it notes it has more than 1,600 open requests that are older than 300 days.
At the most basic level, as an American people, it’s our money, they’re our documents. We deserve a little bit of a better response from our government.