December 2, 2012
"A US Navy official mistakenly forwarded an email to a local news reporter this week outlining the Navy’s method of avoiding the very Freedom of Information Act requests that reporter had filed.
The Navy’s FOIA office confirmed that it had received MacFarlane’s request, but instead of sending him the relevant documents, they inadvertently sent an internal email containing instructions on how to avoid the reporter’s request. MacFarlane tweeted a screenshot of the message – which included the name of Robin Patterson, the Navy’s FOIA public liaison – accompanied by the phrase “EPIC FAILURE.”
“I think the appropriate response is ‘cameras are prohibited from the premises, with the exception of ‘official photos’ of specific events and assemblies, or ceremonies, such as retirements,” the email read, in part. “This request is too broad to tie to the specific event. If you discover that there is a ‘photo library,’ I would recommend negotiating with the requester…”
MacFarlane also asked the Navy to waive fees beyond $15 because his request “is in the public interest….A compelling need exists to warrant expedited processing of this request, because a large number of our viewers are immediately impacted by the content of these records. There records relate directly to performance of government in matters of safety, health, and well-being.”
FOIA workers advised each other to avoid turning over information by telling MacFarlane his request was too broad and would constitute a “fishing expedition,” and that he should “narrow the scope of his request.”
“Again, another ‘fishing expedition,’” the screenshot shows. “[J]ust because they are media doesn’t mean the memos shed light on specific government activities.”