31 CFR 1.5 - Specific requests for other records.
(a) In general.
(1) Except for records made available under 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(1) and (a)(2), but subject to the application of the exemptions and exclusions described in 5 U.S.C. 552(b) and (c), each bureau of the Department of the Treasury shall promptly make the requested records available to any person in conformance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(3). The request must conform in every respect with the rules and procedures of this subpart and the applicable bureau's appendix to this subpart. Any request or appeal from the initial denial of a request that does not comply with the requirements in this subpart will not be considered subject to the time constraints of paragraphs (h), (i), and (j) of this section, unless and until the request is amended to comply. Bureaus shall promptly advise the requester in what respect the request or appeal is deficient so that it may be amended and resubmitted for consideration in accordance with this subpart. If a requester does not respond within 30 days to a communication from a bureau to amend the request in order for it to be in conformance with this subpart, the request file will be considered closed. When the request conforms with the requirements of this subpart, bureaus shall make every reasonable effort to comply with the request within the time constraints. If the description of the record requested is of a type that is not maintained by the bureau, the requester shall be so advised and the request shall be returned to the requester.
(2) This subpart applies only to records in the possession or control of the bureau at the time of the request. Records considered to be responsive to the request are those in existence on or before the date of receipt of the request by the appropriate bureau official. Requests for the continuing production of records created after the date of the appropriate bureau official's receipt of the request shall not be honored. Bureaus shall provide the responsive record or records in the form or format requested if the record or records are readily reproducible by the bureau in that form or format. Bureaus shall make reasonable efforts to maintain their records in forms or formats that are reproducible for the purpose of disclosure. For purposes of this section, readily reproducible means, with respect to electronic format, a record or records that can be downloaded or transferred intact to a floppy disk, compact disk (CD), tape, or other electronic medium using equipment currently in use by the office or offices processing the request. Even though some records may initially be readily reproducible, the need to segregate exempt from nonexempt records may cause the releasable material to not be readily reproducible.
(3) Requests for information classified pursuant to Executive Order 12958, “Classified National Security Information,” require the responsible bureau to review the information to determine whether it continues to warrant classification. Information which no longer warrants classification under the Executive Order's criteria shall be declassified and made available to the requester, unless the information is otherwise exempt from disclosure.
(4) When a bureau receives five or more requests for substantially the same records, it shall place those requests in front of an existing request backlog that the responsible official may have. Upon completion of processing, the released records shall be made available in the bureau's public reading room, and if created on or after November 1, 1996, shall be made available in the electronic reading room of the bureau's web site.
(b) Form of request. In order to be subject to the provisions of this section, the following must be satisfied.
(1) The request for records shall be made in writing, signed by the person making the request, and state that it is made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, or this subpart.
(2) The request shall indicate whether the requester is a commercial user, an educational institution, non-commercial scientific institution, representative of the news media, or “other” requester, subject to the fee provisions described in § 1.7. In order for the Department to determine the proper category for fee purposes as defined in this section, a request for records shall also state how the records released will be used. This information shall not be used to determine the releasibility of any record or records. A determination of the proper category of requester shall be based upon a review of the requester's submission and the bureau's own records. Where a bureau has reasonable cause to doubt the use to which a requester will put the records sought, or where that use is not clear from the request itself, bureaus should seek additional clarification before assigning the request to a specific category. The categories of requesters are defined as follows:
(i) Commercial. A commercial use request refers to a request from or on behalf of one who seeks information for a use or purpose that furthers the commercial, trade, or profit interests of the requester or the person on whose behalf the request is made, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. The bureaus may determine from the use specified in the request that the requester is a commercial user.
(ii) Educational institution. This refers to a preschool, a public or private elementary or secondary school, an institution of graduate higher education, an institution of undergraduate higher education, an institution of professional education, and an institution of vocational education, which operates a program or programs of scholarly research. This category does not include requesters wanting records for use in meeting individual academic research or study requirements.
(iii) Non-commercial scientific institution. This refers to an institution that is not operated on a “commercial” basis as that term is defined in paragraph (b)(2)(i) of this section, and which is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research, the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry.
(iv) Representative of the news media. This refers to any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public. The term news means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news media entities include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large, and publishers of periodicals (but only in those instances when they can qualify as disseminators of “news”) who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public. These examples are not intended to be all-inclusive. In the case of “freelance” journalists, they may be regarded as working for a news organization if they can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through that organization, even though not actually employed by it. A publication contract would be the clearest proof, but bureaus may also look to the past publication record of a requester in making this determination.
(v) “Other” Requester. This refers to a requester who does not fall within any of the previously described categories.
(3) The request must be properly addressed to the bureau that maintains the record. The functions of each bureau are summarized in The United States Government Manual which is issued annually and is available from the Superintendent of Documents. Both the envelope and the request itself should be clearly marked “Freedom of Information Act Request.” See the appendices to this subpart for the office or officer to which requests shall be addressed for each bureau. A requester in need of guidance in defining a request or determining the proper bureau to which a request should be sent may contact Disclosure Services at 202/622-0930, or may write to Disclosure Services, Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20220. Requesters may access the “FOIA Home Page” at the Department of the Treasury World Wide Web site at: http://www.treas.gov.
(4) The request must reasonably describe the records in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.
(5) The request must set forth the address where the person making the request wants to be notified about whether or not the request will be granted.
(6) The request must state whether the requester wishes to inspect the records or desires to have a copy made and furnished without first inspecting them.
(7) The request must state the firm agreement of the requester to pay the fees for search, duplication, and review as may ultimately be determined in accordance with § 1.7. The agreement may state the upper limit (but not less than $25) that the requester is willing to pay for processing the request. A request that fees be waived or reduced may accompany the agreement to pay fees and shall be considered to the extent that such request is made in accordance with § 1.7(d) and provides supporting information to be measured against the fee waiver standard set forth in § 1.7(d)(1). The requester shall be notified in writing of the decision to grant or deny the fee waiver. A requester shall be asked to provide an agreement to pay fees when the request for a fee waiver or reduction is denied and the initial request for records does not include such agreement. If a requester has an outstanding balance of search, review, or duplication fees due for FOIA request processing, the requirements of this paragraph are not met until the requester has remitted the outstanding balance due.
(c) Requests for records not in control of bureau; referrals; consultations.
(1) When a requested record is in the possession or under the control of a bureau of the Department other than the office to which the request is addressed, the request for the record shall be transferred to the appropriate bureau and the requester notified. This referral shall not be considered a denial of access within the meaning of these regulations. The bureau of the Department to which this referral is made shall treat this request as a new request addressed to it and the time limits for response set forth by paragraph (h)(1) of this section shall begin when the referral is received by the designated office or officer of the bureau.
(2) When a requested record has been created by an agency or Treasury bureau other than the Treasury bureau possessing the record, the bureau having custody of the record shall refer the record to the originating agency or Treasury bureau for a direct response to the requester. The requester shall be informed of the referral unless otherwise instructed by the originating agency. This is not a denial of a FOIA request; thus no appeal rights accrue to the requester.
(3) When a FOIA request is received for a record created by a Treasury bureau that includes information originated by another bureau of the Department of the Treasury or another agency, the record shall be referred to the originating agency or bureau for review and recommendation on disclosure. The agency or bureau shall respond to the referring office. The Treasury bureau shall not release any such records without prior consultation with the originating bureau or agency.
(4) In certain instances and at the discretion of the Departmental Offices, requests having impact on two or more bureaus of the Department may be coordinated by the Departmental Offices.
(d) Reasonable description of records. The request for records must describe the records in reasonably sufficient detail to enable employees who are familiar with the subject area of the request to locate the records without placing an unreasonable burden upon the Department. Whenever possible, a request should include specific information about each record sought, such as the date, title or name, author, recipients, and subject matter of the record. If the Department determines that the request does not reasonably describe the records sought, the requester shall be given an opportunity to provide additional information. Such opportunity may, when necessary, involve a discussion with knowledgeable Department of the Treasury personnel. The reasonable description requirement shall not be used by officers or employees of the Department of the Treasury to improperly withhold records from the public.
(e) Requests for expedited processing.
(1) When a request for records includes a request for expedited processing, both the envelope and the request itself must be clearly marked, “Expedited Processing Requested.”
(2) Records will be processed as soon as practicable when a requester asks for expedited processing in writing and is granted such expedited treatment by the Department. The requester must demonstrate a compelling need for expedited processing of the requested records. A compelling need is defined as follows:
(i) Failure to obtain the requested records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual. The requester shall fully explain the circumstances warranting such an expected threat so that the Department may make a reasoned determination that a delay in obtaining the requested records could pose such a threat; or
(ii) With respect to a request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity. A person “primarily engaged in disseminating information” does not include individuals who are engaged only incidentally in the dissemination of information. The standard of “urgency to inform” requires that the records requested pertain to a matter of current exigency to the American public and that delaying a response to a request for records would compromise a significant recognized interest to and throughout the American general public. The requester must adequately explain the matter or activity and why the records sought are necessary to be provided on an expedited basis.
(3) A demonstration of a compelling need by a person making a request for expedited processing shall be made by a statement certified by the requester to be true and correct to the best of his or her knowledge and belief. The statement must be in the form prescribed by 28 U.S.C. 1746, “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. Executed on [date].”
(4) Upon receipt by the appropriate bureau official, a request for expedited processing shall be considered and a determination as to whether to grant or deny the request for expedited processing shall be made, and the requester notified, within 10 calendar days of the date of the request. However, in no event shall the bureau have fewer than five days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) from the date of receipt of the request for such processing. The determination to grant or deny a request for expedited processing may be made solely on the information contained in the initial letter requesting expedited treatment.
(5) Appeals of initial determinations to deny expedited processing must be made within 10 calendar days of the date of the initial letter of determination denying expedited processing. Both the envelope and the appeal itself shall be clearly marked, “Appeal for Expedited Processing.”
(6) An appeal determination regarding expedited processing shall be made, and the requester notified, within 10 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) from the date of receipt of the appeal.
(f) Date of receipt of request. A request for records shall be considered to have been received on the date on which a complete request containing the information required by paragraph (b) of this section has been received. A determination that a request is deficient in any respect is not a denial of access, and such determinations are not subject to administrative appeal. Requests shall be stamped with the date of receipt by the office prescribed in the appropriate appendix. As soon as the date of receipt has been established, the requester shall be so informed and shall also be advised when to expect a response. The acknowledgment of receipt requirement shall not apply if a disclosure determination will be issued prior to the end of the 20-day time limit.
(g) Search for record requested. Department of the Treasury employees shall search to identify and locate requested records, including records stored at Federal Records Centers. Searches for records maintained in electronic form or format may require the application of codes, queries, or other minor forms of programming to retrieve the requested records. Wherever reasonable, searches shall be done by electronic means. However, searches of electronic records are not required when such searches would significantly interfere with the operation of a Treasury automated information system or would require unreasonable effort to conduct. The Department of the Treasury is not required under 5 U.S.C. 552 to tabulate or compile information for the purpose of creating a record or records that do not exist.
(h) Initial determination -
(1) In general. The officers designated in the appendices to this part shall make initial determinations either to grant or to deny in whole or in part requests for records. Such officers shall respond in the approximate order of receipt of the requests, to the extent consistent with sound administrative practice. These determinations shall be made and the requester notified within 20 days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the date of receipt of the request, as determined in accordance with paragraph (f) of this section, unless the designated officer invokes an extension pursuant to paragraph (j)(1) of this section or the requester otherwise agrees to an extension of the 20-day time limitation.
(2) Granting of request. If the request is granted in full or in part, and if the requester wants a copy of the records, a copy of the records shall be mailed to the requester, together with a statement of the applicable fees, either at the time of the determination or shortly thereafter.
(3) Inspection of records. In the case of a request for inspection, the requester shall be notified in writing of the determination, when and where the requested records may be inspected, and of the fees incurred in complying with the request. The records shall then promptly be made available for inspection at the time and place stated, in a manner that will not interfere with Department of the Treasury operations and will not exclude other persons from making inspections. The requester shall not be permitted to remove the records from the room where inspection is made. If, after making inspection, the requester desires copies of all or a portion of the requested records, copies shall be furnished upon payment of the established fees prescribed by § 1.7. Fees may be charged for search and review time as stated in § 1.7.
(4) Denial of request. If it is determined that the request for records should be denied in whole or in part, the requester shall be notified by mail. The letter of notification shall:
(i) State the exemptions relied on in not granting the request;
(ii) If technically feasible, indicate the amount of information deleted at the place in the record where such deletion is made (unless providing such indication would harm an interest protected by the exemption relied upon to deny such material);
(iii) Set forth the name and title or position of the responsible official;
(iv) Advise the requester of the right to administrative appeal in accordance with paragraph (i) of this section; and
(v) Specify the official or office to which such appeal shall be submitted.
(5) No records found. If it is determined, after a thorough search for records by the responsible official or his delegate, that no records have been found to exist, the responsible official will so notify the requester in writing. The letter of notification will advise the requester of the right to administratively appeal the Department's determination that no records exist (i.e., to challenge the adequacy of the Department's search for responsive records) in accordance with paragraph (i) of this section. The response shall specify the official or office to which the appeal shall be submitted for review.
(i) Administrative appeal. (1)(i) A requester may appeal a Department of the Treasury initial determination when:
(A) Access to records has been denied in whole or in part;
(B) There has been an adverse determination of the requester's category as provided in § 1.7(d)(4);
(C) A request for fee waiver or reduction has been denied;
(D) It has been determined that no responsive records exist; or
(E) A request for expedited processing has been denied.
(ii) An appeal, other than an appeal for expedited processing, must be submitted within 35 days of the date of the initial determination or the date of the letter transmitting the last records released, whichever is later, except in the case of a denial for expedited processing. An appeal of a denial for expedited processing must be made within 10 days of the date of the initial determination to deny expedited processing (see § 1.5(e)(5)). All appeals must be submitted to the official specified in the appropriate appendix to this subpart whose title and address should also have been included in the initial determination. An appeal that is improperly addressed shall be considered not to have been received by the Department until the office specified in the appropriate appendix receives the appeal.
(2) The appeal shall -
(i) Be made in writing and signed by the requester or his or her representative;
(ii) Be addressed to and mailed or hand delivered within 35 days (or within 10 days when expedited processing has been denied) of the date of the initial determination, or the date of the letter transmitting the last records released, whichever is later, to the office or officer specified in the appropriate appendix to this subpart and also in the initial determination. (See the appendices to this subpart for the address to which appeals made by mail should be addressed);
(iii) Set forth the address where the requester desires to be notified of the determination on appeal;
(iv) Specify the date of the initial request and date of the letter of initial determination, and, where possible, enclose a copy of the initial request and the initial determination being appealed.
(i) Appeals shall be stamped with the date of their receipt by the office to which addressed, and shall be processed in the approximate order of their receipt. The receipt of the appeal shall be acknowledged by the office or officer specified in the appropriate appendix to this subpart and the requester advised of the date the appeal was received and the expected date of response. The decision to affirm the initial determination (in whole or in part) or to grant the request for records shall be made and notification of the determination mailed within 20 days (exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the date of receipt of the appeal, unless extended pursuant to paragraph (j)(1) of this section. If it is decided that the initial determination is to be upheld (in whole or in part) the requester shall be -
(A) Notified in writing of the denial;
(B) Notified of the reasons for the denial, including the FOIA exemptions relied upon;
(C) Notified of the name and title or position of the official responsible for the determination on appeal; and
(D) Provided with a statement that judicial review of the denial is available in the United States District Court for the judicial district in which the requester resides or has a principal place of business, the judicial district in which the requested records are located, or the District of Columbia in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4)(B).
(ii) If the initial determination is reversed on appeal, the requester shall be so notified and the request shall be processed promptly in accordance with the decision on appeal.
(4) If a determination cannot be made within the 20-day period (or within a period of extension pursuant to paragraph (j)(1) of this section), the requester may be invited to agree to a voluntary extension of the 20-day appeal period. This voluntary extension shall not constitute a waiver of the right of the requester ultimately to commence an action in a United States district court.
(j) Time extensions; unusual circumstances.
(1) In unusual circumstances, the time limitations specified in paragraphs (h) and (i) of this section may be extended by written notice from the official charged with the duty of making the determination to the person making the request or appeal setting forth the reasons for this extension and the date on which the determination is expected to be sent. As used in this paragraph, unusual circumstances means, but only to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular requests:
(i) The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;
(ii) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request; or
(iii) The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request, or among two or more bureaus or components of bureaus of the Department of the Treasury having substantial subject matter interest therein.
(2) Any extension or extensions of time shall not cumulatively total more than 10 days (exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays). However, if additional time is needed to process the request, the bureau shall notify the requester and provide the requester an opportunity to limit the scope of the request or arrange for an alternative time frame for processing the request or a modified request. The requester shall retain the right to define the desired scope of the request, as long as it meets the requirements contained in this subpart.
(3) Bureaus may establish multitrack processing of requests based on the amount of work or time, or both, involved in processing requests.
(4) If more than one request is received from the same requester, or from a group of requesters acting in concert, and the Department believes that such requests constitute a single request which would otherwise satisfy the unusual circumstances specified in paragraph (j)(1) of this section, and the requests involve clearly related matters, the Department may aggregate these requests for processing purposes.
(k) Failure to comply. If a bureau of the Department of the Treasury fails to comply with the time limits specified in paragraphs (h) or (i) of this section , or the time extensions of paragraph (j) of this section, any person making a request for records in accordance with § 1.5 shall be considered to have exhausted administrative remedies with respect to the request. Accordingly, the person making the request may initiate suit as set forth in paragraph (l) of this section.
(l) Judicial review. If an adverse determination is made upon appeal pursuant to paragraph (i) of this section, or if no determination is made within the time limits specified in paragraphs (h) and (i) of this section, together with any extension pursuant to paragraph (j)(1) of this section or within the time otherwise agreed to by the requester, the requester may commence an action in a United States district court in the district in which he resides, in which his principal place of business is located, in which the records are situated, or in the District of Columbia, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(4).
(m) Preservation of records. Under no circumstances shall records be destroyed while they are the subject of a pending request, appeal, or lawsuit under the FOIA.
(n) Processing requests that are not properly addressed. A request that is not properly addressed as specified in the appropriate appendix to this subpart shall be forwarded to the appropriate bureau or bureaus for processing. If the recipient of the request does not know the appropriate bureau to forward it to, the request shall be forwarded to the Departmental Disclosure Officer (Disclosure Services, DO), who will determine the appropriate bureau. A request not addressed to the appropriate bureau will be considered to have been received for purposes of paragraph (f) of this section when the request has been received by the appropriate bureau office as designated in the appropriate appendix to this subpart. An improperly addressed request, when received by the appropriate bureau office, shall be acknowledged by that bureau.