More on FoIA requests

Spy.org.uk have responded to my previous article on FoIA requests. They add some further points to those I made myself. As well as noting that section 14 of the FoIA allows departments to reject vexatious requests, they go on to point out:

In any case, the Publication Schemes established by the FOIA in the run up to January 1st this year all, obviously, provide phone, postal addresses, fax and email contacts with the teams of civil servants, well away from the operational “sharp end” of the organisation, who have been tasked and funded to deal with and filter any “vexatious” or “disruptive” requests, and to comply with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which is the law of the land. (Emphasis added)

This raises a key point. Any sensible implementation of the FoIA by the security agencies should have ensured that those dealing with e.g. surveillance operations or analysis of the data obtained via such operations should not be dealing with the processing of FoIA requests. It should have involved creating entirely separate teams for processing the requests, hired with extra funds to set them up so that existing operations do not get disrupted.

Thus even if processing FoIA requests posed a higher than expected burden the effect should simply be to stretch the FoIA request teams (who should then point out the problem to management) and should not impact on the other activities in the organisation concerned.

Of course that’s no excuse for anyone who sends frivolous requests (which will waste taxpayers money and civil servants’ time if nothing else), but that is not what I or spy.org.uk were proposing to do.

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