Aug 19 2016

An apology from the State Department

We got a pleasant surprise this week: a phone call from Eric F. Stein, the head of the State Department’s FOIA-processing office.

Mr. Stein’s name and signature appeared on a bizarre letter we received last month, telling us that one of the unanswered Freedom Of Information Act requests we’d been bugging the State Department about for the last five years would be “dismissed” if we didn’t respond immediately to say that we were “still interested” in the records we had requested.  To make it harder to respond, there was no phone number or e-mail address in the letter.

“I want to apologize to you directly for that letter,” Mr. Stein said. “I’m sorry we sent you that letter. It was sent by somebody who had the authority to use my signature, but we should never have sent it to you. I’m still trying to find out why it was sent. Somebody is supposed to look at the file before they send out one of these letters. You laid it out very clearly in your letter, and you’re right: Nobody could have looked at that file, and everything you had done to follow up on your request, and thought that you weren’t interested in a response any more. I’ve just had an all-hands meeting of my department and told my staff not to send out any more ‘still interested’ letters until we can be sure that we are following the procedures we said we would follow.”

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