36 CFR § 404.4 - Access to information.

§ 404.4 Access to information.

(a) Contact information.

(1) Individuals wishing to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) should address their request in writing to the FOIA Office, American Battle Monuments Commission, 2300 Clarendon Boulevard, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22201, or to FOIA@abmc.gov, or via https://www.foia.gov.

(2) The American Battle Monuments Commission makes available information pertaining to Commission matters within the scope of 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(2), including records that have been requested three or more times, by publishing them electronically at the ABMC home page at https://www.abmc.gov/foia. Additional information may be found on the National FOIA Portal at https://www.foia.gov. Note: The ABMC.gov site provides all of the information the Commission has regarding burials at its cemeteries. ABMC does not have service records, casualty lists, or information on burials within the United States.

(b) Requests.

(1) Requesters must provide contact information, such as their phone number, email address, and/or mailing address, to assist ABMC in communicating with them and providing released records.

(2)

(i) Requests for records must reasonably describe the records sought. Requesters must describe the records sought in sufficient detail to enable agency personnel to locate them with a reasonable amount of effort. To the extent possible, requesters should include specific information that may help ABMC identify the requested records, such as the date, title or name, author, recipient, subject matter, case number, file designation, or reference number. Before submitting their requests, requesters may contact the ABMC FOIA Assistant or FOIA Public Liaison to discuss the records they seek and to receive assistance in describing the records.

(ii) If a request does not reasonably describe the records sought, response to the request may be delayed. If, after receiving a request, ABMC determines that the request does not reasonably describe the records sought, ABMC must inform the requester what additional information is needed or why the request is otherwise insufficient. Requesters who are attempting to reformulate or modify such a request may discuss their request with the FOIA Assistant or FOIA Public Liaison.

(3) Requests may specify the preferred form or format (including electronic formats) for the records sought. ABMC will accommodate the request if the record is readily reproducible in that form or format.

(c) Responses to requests.

(1) The ABMC FOIA Office is responsible for responding to FOIA requests. Upon receipt of any perfected request for records, the FOIA Office will determine within 20 days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) of the date the request is received in the FOIA Office whether it is appropriate to grant the request and will immediately provide written notification to the person making the request.

(2) ABMC responds to requests in the order of receipt, using multitrack processing. Tracks include simple, and complex, based on whether unusual circumstances apply (see paragraph (d) of this section), the volume of potential records, the need for consultation or referral, and the amount of work or time needed to process the request.

(3) ABMC will acknowledge requests with a tracking number, summary of the request, estimated completion dates, track information, the opportunity to narrow or modify the scope, and contact information for the FOIA Public Liaison.

(4) In determining which records are responsive to a request, ABMC ordinarily will include only records in its possession as of the date that it begins its search. If any other date is used, ABMC must inform the requester of that date.

(d) Extending time limits. If the ABMC FOIA Office determines that unusual circumstances apply to the processing of a request, and provides timely written notice to the requester, ABMC may extend the time limits prescribed in paragraphs (c) and (h) of this section for not more than 10 days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, or legal public holidays). Where unusual circumstances merit an extension of more than 10 working days, ABMC will provide the requester with an opportunity to modify the request or arrange an alternative time period for processing the original or modified request.

(1) As used in this paragraph (d), but only to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular request, the term unusual circumstances means:

(i) The need to search for and collect the requested records from establishments that are separated 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

(ii) 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 components of the agency which have a substantial subject matter interest therein.

(2) Extensions will be by written notice to the persons making the request. The notice of extension will set forth the reasons for the extension and the date the determination is expected, and will notify the requester of the right to seek assistance from ABMC's FOIA Public Liaison to resolve any disputes between the requester and ABMC, or to seek dispute resolution services from the Office of Government Information Services.

(3) Before issuing a written notice extending time limits, the agency shall provide the person an opportunity to limit the scope of the request so that it may be processed within that time limit or an opportunity to arrange with the agency an alternative time frame for processing the request or a modified request.

(4) When ABMC reasonably believes that a requester, or a group of requestors acting in concert, has submitted requests that constitute a single request, involving clearly related matters, ABMC may aggregate those requests for purposes of this paragraph (d). One element to be considered in determining whether a belief would be reasonable is the time period over which the requests have occurred.

(5) If ABMC fails to comply with the extended time limit, it may not charge search fees (or for requesters with preferred fee status, may not charge duplication fees), except if unusual circumstances apply and more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, ABMC may charge search fees (or, for requesters in preferred fee status, may charge duplication fees) if timely written notice has been made to the requester and ABMC has discussed with the requester (or made not less than 3 good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request.

(6) If a court determines that exceptional circumstances exist, ABMC's failure to comply with a time limit shall be excused for the length of time provided by the court order. Refusal by the person to reasonably modify the request or arrange such an alternative time frame shall be considered as a factor in determining whether exceptional circumstances exist.

(e) Consultation, referral, and classified information. When reviewing records located in response to a request, ABMC will determine whether another agency of the Federal Government is better able to determine whether the record is exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. As to any such record, the ABMC must proceed in one of the following ways:

(1) Consultation. When ABMC records contain within them information of interest to another agency, ABMC should typically consult with that other agency prior to making a release determination.

(2) Referral. When an ABMC record originated with a different agency or contains significant information that originated with a different agency, or when ABMC believes that a different agency is best able to determine whether to disclose a record, ABMC typically should refer the responsibility for responding to the request regarding that record to that agency. When ABMC refers any part of the responsibility for responding to a request to another agency, it must document and maintain a copy of the record, and notify the requester of the referral, informing the requester of the name of the agency and FOIA contact information.

(3) Classified information. On receipt of any request involving classified information, ABMC must determine whether the information is currently and properly classified in accordance with applicable classification rules. ABMC must refer the responsibility for responding to the request regarding that information to the agency that classified the information, or that should consider the information for classification.

(f) Expedited processing.

(1) Requests and appeals will be taken out of order and given expedited treatment whenever it is determined that they involve:

(i) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;

(ii) An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal Government activity, beyond the public's right to know about Government activity generally, if made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information;

(iii) The loss of substantial due process rights; or

(iv) A matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the Government's integrity which affect public confidence.

(2) A request for expedited processing may be made at the time of the initial request for records or at any later time. A request must include a statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of that person's knowledge and belief, explaining in detail the basis for requesting expedited processing.

(3) Within 10 days of receipt of a request for expedited processing, ABMC will decide whether to grant it and will notify the requester of the decision. If a request for expedited treatment is granted, the request will be given priority and will be processed as soon as practicable. If a request for expedited processing is denied, any appeal of that decision will be acted on expeditiously.

(g) Grants and denials of requests.

(1) Once ABMC determines it will grant a request in full or in part, it shall notify the requester in writing. ABMC must also inform the requester of any fees charged under § 404.10 and must disclose the requested records to the requester promptly upon payment of any applicable fees. ABMC must inform the requester of the availability of its FOIA Public Liaison to offer assistance.

(2) ABMC may provide interim releases for voluminous requests.

(3) If ABMC determines that a full disclosure of a requested record is not possible, it will consider whether partial disclosure of information is possible. Records disclosed in part will be marked clearly to show the amount of information deleted and the exemption under which the deletion was made, unless doing so would harm an interest protected by an applicable exemption. The location of the information deleted will also be indicated on the record, if technically feasible.

(4) If the request is denied, in part or in full, the written notification to the requester shall include the reasons for the denial and the estimated volume withheld (unless indicated via markings, or if providing such an estimate would harm an interest protected by an exemption). The notification must inform the requester of:

(i) The requester's right to seek assistance from ABMC's FOIA Public Liaison;

(ii) The requester's right to lodge an appeal with ABMC within 90 days after the date of the denial; and

(iii) The requester's right to seek dispute resolution services from the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).

(h) Appeals. Appeals shall be set forth in writing within 90 days of receipt of a denial and addressed to the FOIA Office at the address specified in paragraph (a) of this section. The appeal should clearly identify the agency determination that is being appealed and the assigned request number. To facilitate handling, the requester should mark both the appeal letter and envelope, or subject line of the electronic transmission, “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.” The appeal shall include a statement explaining the basis for the appeal. Appeals will be adjudicated by the ABMC Secretary, or his designee, and the adjudication will be set forth in writing within 20 days of receipt of the appeal in the ABMC FOIA Office (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays). If, on appeal, the denial is upheld in whole or in part, the written determination will also contain a notification of the provisions for judicial review and contact information for OGIS dispute resolution services. An appeal ordinarily will not be adjudicated if the request becomes a matter of FOIA litigation.

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