Sunday, January 20, 2008

Presidential Records, Part II

To continue yesterday's post, I wanted to underscore one of the most important points underlying all the controversy over the timely release of presidential records - there just simply aren't enough people and resources to process any faster. Here's Fawcett's quote explaining how she would like NARA to be able to approach the process:

I would try to do the processing more comprehensively. If you think of an intersecting line, the FoIA requests would eventually start to intersect with the records that have already been systematically processed, so they would be open and available. That would mean there would be a continuing decline in what people would have to FoIA, and the staff could get the records out in a more timely fashion.

We are making some modifications to our system in that we take a look at our FoIA requests, and we attempt to bundle them, so that if we have a number of FoIA requests on a specific related subject, we will bring them together.

For example, say we had a lot of requests on Afghanistan, but they cover different aspects of Afghanistan, we'd probably try to identify the majority of files that would cover that subject and let researchers know that we're processing that systematically, and then process it that way and notify all the FoIA requesters at the same time when the material is done. They are likely to get the material much more quickly that way. But again, it depends on the subject interest of the FoIAs, and FoIAs really come in based on what's happening. You know, Hillary Clinton is running for president, so we have FoIA requests asking for her records.

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