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FOIA Requests Delivered

Posted on June 20th, 2013
by Jonathan Corbett
If your FOIA requests were in the first batch that we sent out on Sunday, they are now sitting on the desk of a confused and annoyed NSA employee in Ft. Meade. Also, if you were in the first batch of motions to quash, your motions are currently in transit to the desk of a soon-to-be confused and annoyed attorney with the Department of Justice. If your request was sent and you left a valid e-mail address, you will receive an e-mail by tomorrow confirming this. I'll be mailing the next batch this weekend (almost 500 more, so far!).

So what's next? First, I have to clarify that since I'm not an attorney, I can't give you "legal advice." Printing and mailing forms that you've filled out isn't legal advice, and publishing a form has been ruled to be protectect speech by pretty much every appellate court to consider the issue. See, for example, Dacey v. New York County Lawyers' Assn, 234 N.E.2d 694. The line is typically drawn at preparing an individualized pleading for a specific person's situation, or advice relating thereto. So, if you ask me a question about what to do now by e-mail, I probably can't answer.

With that said, as a general matter, FOIA requests can either be responded to or ignored. If the request is ignored, or responded to by refusing to provide documents, one can sue in their local U.S. District Court to compel the production of those documents. I'd be willing to bet that for such an issue, there will be attorneys who would take your case pro bono (if you're such an attorney, please contact me with the federal courts in which you are admitted and I'll put you in touch with people as the time comes). If you win your suit, you may be entitled to attorney's fees (assuming you paid an attorney). If you decide to sue and need proof of mailing, please contact me.

Also as a general matter, and based on my readings of the FISA court's rules, the first step is to see if your motion will be accepted. They might require a hand signature or other nuance. If so, I would simply do what they ask and re-send. If you need an electronic copy of the document you've sent through this site, please contact me. Once accepted, your motion will be responded to by the government, and you may respond to that. Please see all of the court's rules if you plan to follow through on your motion. If your motion is ultimately denied, you may appeal to a FISA review court and then to the U.S. Supreme Court. You will probably wish to have an attorney help you with this.

In short, if the government doesn't accept your document right away (and they probably will try to find every reason not to), don't give up! Press the issue!

Copyright © 2013 Jonathan Corbett. All rights reserved.