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FOIA Ombudsman Sides with EPIC, DHS to Revise Fee Procedures

Following a detailed complaint from EPIC, which stated that the DHS "is throwing up roadblocks" by withholding fee waivers that should be granted, the FOIA Ombudsman has announced significant changes that will assist all DHS Freedom of Information Act requesters. Beginning October 1, 2012, the DHS will conditionally grant fee waivers if the request is likely to qualify for fee waiver. EPIC had objected that previously the agency did not grant waivers even when it knew the requester was likely to qualify. Second, DHS will inform non-commercial requesters that they are entitled to two free hours of search time and 100 free pages of duplication. Previously, the agency did not inform requesters of this legal right. Third, when fees are imposed, the agency will now provide requesters a detailed breakdown of costs. EPIC President Marc Rotenberg praised the work of the FOIA Ombudsman and acknowledged the changes at DHS. "Congress made clear that the fee waiver provision promotes access to public information. These changes are consistent with that important purpose," said Mr. Rotenberg. For more information, see EPIC - Open Government.

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