UNITED STATES INFORMATION AGENCY

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACTIVITIES

FY1998 ANNUAL REPORT TO JUSTICE




I. Person to contact regarding report:

A. Lola L. Secora, Chief, FOIA/PA Unit, Office of the General Counsel, United States Information Agency (USIA), 301 4th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20547; telephone (202) 619-5499.

B. Electronic address for the report on USIA's Home Page, through its Internet address is: http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/Regulations/Laws/General Counsel/FOIA.

C. How to obtain a copy of the report in paper form: To receive a copy, you may write to the address in paragraph A above, or call (202) 619-5499.



II. How to Make an FOIA Request:

A. FOIA requests to USIA or USIS should be made in writing and addressed to the FOIA/PA Officer, USIA, Room M-29, 301 4th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20547. You may also write to that address to receive a copy of the Agency's Regulation (22 CFR Part 503) implementing the FOIA, and/or a copy of the Agency's most recent Annual Report on FOIA Activities. In addition, you may view both documents on USIA's Home Page, through its Internet address: http://www.usia.gov.

The following elements should be included in your FOIA letter of request: (1) identify as specifically as possible, the records you are seeking, including a time frame; (2) name the location of the records, if known (e.g., the Office of the General Counsel); (3) include your name, address and a telephone number where you can be contacted. Although the telephone number is optional, it is helpful in case we need to clarify your request. It is not necessary to specifically identify the FOIA in your request, but it is helpful.

B. Generally, the Agency responds to all requests within 20 working days, however, we have had much success in responding to requests within 10 working days (as formerly required by law), and we still try to do so.

C. Following are the FOIA reasons access to records may be denied - There are nine exemptions that may be applied in order to withhold records under the FOIA, if it is warranted. The USIA uses only seven of these nine exemptions, and they are to withhold: (1) classified documents; (2) internal personnel rules and practices; (3) other statutes (other than the FOIA), that require withholding; (4) trade secrets and commercial or financial information; (5) internal, predecisional information; (6) personal privacy; and (7) investigatory material. The Agency may only withhold those portions of a document that are exempt from the disclosure requirements of the law. The Agency may also determine to release a document or portions of a document that are normally exempt from disclosure, when it is determined that no harm would result from its disclosure.

USIA is prohibited by the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1461) to disseminate within the United States records or information about the U.S., its people, and its policies, when those records or information have been prepared by the Agency for audiences abroad (Exemption 3). The most recent court case challenging this Smith-Mundt ban on domestic dissemination of USIA program materials, Essential Information, et al. v. USIA, was decided in the Agency's favor in 1996 (subsequently upheld on appeal).



III. Definitions of Terms and Acronyms Used in the Report:

A. Agency-specific acronyms and other terms.

1. USIA - United States Information Agency - The United States Information Agency is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch of the U.S. government. USIA explains and supports American foreign policy and promotes U.S. national interests through a wide range of overseas information programs. The agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other nations by conducting educational and cultural activities.

2. USIS - United States Information Service. USIA maintains more than 212 posts in 147 countries where it is known as USIS, the U.S. Information Service.

B. Basic terms, expressed in common terminology:

1. FOIA/PA request Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act request. An FOIA request is generally a request for access to records concerning a third party, an organization, or a particular topic of interest. A privacy Act request is a request for records concerning oneself; such requests are also treated as FOIA requests. (All requests for access to records, regardless of which law is cited by the requester, are included in this report.)

2. Initial request - a request to a Federal agency for access to records under the FOIA.

3. Appeal - a request to a Federal agency asking that it review at a higher administrative level a full denial or partial denial of access to records under the FOIA, or any other FOIA determination such as a matter pertaining to fees.

4. Processed request or appeal - a request or appeal for which an agency has taken a final action on the request or the appeal in all respects.

5. Multi-track processing - a system in which simple requests requiring relatively minimal review are placed in one processing track and more voluminous and complex requests are placed in one or more other tracks. Generally such requests in each track are processed on a first-in/first-out basis. A requester who has an urgent need for records may request expedited processing (see below).

6. Expedited processing - an agency will process an FOIA request on an expedited basis when a requester has shown an exceptional need or urgency for the records which warrants prioritization of his or her request over other requests that were made earlier.

7. Simple request - an FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in its fastest (nonexpedited) track based on the volume and/or simplicity of records requested.

8. Complex request - an FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in a slower track based on the volume and/or complexity of records requested.

9. Grant - an agency decision to disclose all records in full in response to an FOIA request.

10. Partial grant - an agency decision to disclose a record in part in response to an FOIA request, deleting information determined to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions; or a decision to disclose some records in their entireties, but to withhold others in whole or in part.

11. Denial - an agency decision not to release any part of a record or records in response to an FOIA request because all the information in the requested records is determined by the agency to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions, or for some procedural reason (such as because no record is located in response to an FOIA request).

12. Time limits - the time period in the FOIA for an agency to respond to an FOIA request (ordinarily 20 working days from proper receipt of a perfected FOIA request).

13. "Perfected" request - an FOIA request for records which adequately describes the records sought, which has been received by the FOIA office of the agency or agency component in possession of the records, and for which there is no remaining question about the payment of applicable fees.

14. Exemption 3 statute - a separate Federal statute prohibiting the disclosure of a certain type of information and authorizing its withholding under FOIA subsection (b)(3).

15. Median number - the middle, not average, number. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the median number is 7.

16. Average number - the number obtained by dividing the sum of a group of numbers by the quantity of numbers in the group. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the average number is 8.

IV. Exemption 3 Statutes - The following is the Exemption 3 statute relied upon by the agency during the current fiscal year:

A. 22 U.S.C. 1461 - Ban on domestic dissemination of program materials prepared for audiences abroad. [Essential Information et al v. USIA - decided in the Agency's favor in 1996; upheld on appeal in 1998.]













V. Initial FOIA/PA Access requests.

A. Numbers of initial requests:

1. Number of requests pending at end of September 1997: 0

2. Number of requests received during FY 1998: 835

3. Number of requests processed during FY 1998: 835

4. Number of requests pending at end of FY 1998: 0

B. Disposition of initial requests:

1. Number of total grants: 509

2. Number of partial grants: 94

3. Number of denials: 232

a. Number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per request):



(1) Exemption (b)(1): 2

(2) Exemption (b)(2): 32

(3) Exemption (b)(3): 211

(4) Exemption (b)(4): 32

(5) Exemption (b)(5): 14

(6) Exemption (b)(6): 69

(7) Exemption (b)(7)(A): 0

(8) Exemption (b)(7)(B): 0

(9) Exemption (b)(7)(C): 0

(10) Exemption (b)(7)(D): 0

(11) Exemption (b)(7)(E): 0

(12) Exemption (b)(7)(F): 0

(13) Exemption (b)(8): 0

(14) Exemption (b)(9): 0

4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total):

a. No records: 38

b. Referrals: 41

c. Request withdrawn: 5

d. Fee-related reason: 6

e. Records not reasonably described: 6

f. Not a proper FOIA request: 2

g. Not an agency record: 34

h. Duplicate request: 0

i. Other (specify): 0

j. Refused To Pay: 0



VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests.

A. Numbers of appeals.

1. Number of appeals received during 1998: 24

2. Number of appeals processed during 1998: 24

B. Disposition of appeals.

1. Number completely upheld: 22

2. Number partially reversed: 2

3. Number completely reversed: 0

a. Number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per appeal):

(1) Exemption (b)(1): 0

(2) Exemption (b)(2): 2

(3) Exemption (b)(3): 11

(4) Exemption (b)(4): 2

(5) Exemption (b)(5): 4

(6) Exemption (b)(6): 7

(7) Exemption (b)(7)(A): 0

(8) Exemption (b)(7)(B): 0

(9) Exemption (b)(7)(C): 0

(10) Exemption (b)(7)(D): 0

(11) Exemption (b)(7)(E): 0

(12) Exemption (b)(7)(F): 0

(13) Exemption (b)(8): 0

(14) Exemption (b)(9): 0

4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total):

a. No records: 0

b. Referrals: 0

c. Request withdrawn: 0

d. Fee-related reason: 0

e. Records not reasonably described: 0

f. Not a proper FOIA request: 0

g. Not an agency record: 0

h. Duplicate request: 0

i. Other (specify): 0

j. Refused To Pay: 0



VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests.

A. Median processing time for requests processed during the year (multi-track systems are not used by USIA):

1. Number of requests processed: 835

2. Median number of days to process: 4.4

3. Requests accorded expedited processing:

a. Number of requests processed: 0

b. Median numbers of days to process: 0

B. Status of pending requests:

1. Number of requests pending as of end of 1998: 0

2. Median number of days that such requests were pending as of that date: 0



VIII. Comparison with the Previous Year: The Annual Report to Congress on FOIA Activities in 1997 was based on the calender year and was reported for only nine months. This report begins the new fiscal year reporting requirements to the Department of Justice, starting on October 1, 1997 and ending on September 30, 1998.



IX. Costs/FOIA Staffing.

A. Staffing levels.

1. Number of full-time FOIA personnel: 4

2. Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in total work-years): 28 employees @ 1 work year.

B. Total costs (including staff and all resources).

1. FOIA processing (including appeals): $268624.15

2. Litigation-related activities (estimated): $0.00

3. Total costs: $268624.15



X. Fees.

A. Total amount of fees collected by agency for processing requests: $2106.86

B. Percentage of total costs: 0.01%



XI: FOIA Regulations (Including Fee Schedule): Copy attached. Please see I.B. of this report for Internet address.