Sunday July 17, 2016

Justice Department "Uses Aged Computer System To Frustrate FOIA Requests"

As a citizen, you have the right to inspect any non-exempt records held by a government agency, but there may be hurdles ranging from exorbitant fees, mere ignorance of workers, to cases like these where agencies may deliberately use poor software as a means of keeping information from you.

FOIA requests to the FBI are processed by searching the Automated Case Support system (ACS), a software program that celebrates its 21st birthday this year. Not only are the records indexed by ACS allegedly inadequate, Shapiro told the Guardian, but the FBI refuses to search the full text of those records as a matter of policy. When few or no records are returned, Shapiro said, the FBI effectively responds "sorry, we tried" without making use of the much more sophisticated search tools at the disposal of internal requestors. "The FBI’s assertion is akin to suggesting that a search of a limited and arbitrarily produced card catalogue at a vast library is as likely to locate book pages containing a specified search term as a full text search of database containing digitized versions of all the books in that library," Shapiro said.