The following is a news analysis.
On January 10, 2022 I filed a Freedom of Information request with the Defense Department asking for the After Action report, discussions, and analysis concerning the botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021.
As part of the withdrawal, at least 170 Afghan civilians an 13 US troops were murdered by an Islamic extremist terrorist. Additionally, a US done strike targeted and killed 10 innocent Afghan civilians, including seven children. The military After Action report, required to be filed after every military action, is an important "lessons learned" analysis that provides valuable information.
With limited exceptions, the public has the right to see all of the information gathered on on our behalf by those paid with our tax dollars. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law intended to force the hand of federal officials when they are not quick to release our documents. Upon receiving a FOIA request, a federal or other covered agency has approximately 30 days to provide the documents. However, the federal agencies have corrupted the process and perverted it into a tool used to delay and obfuscate. The agencies rarely meet the legal deadline for providing documents. Frequently, their response takes years and is only provided after the requester files a costly and time-consuming lawsuit in court. Even then, when document are given, the response is often incomplete and overly-redacted.
Regarding my FOI to the military, I asked for and received status for "expedited processing" since I'm a reporter who was planning to use the materials in a news report, and the issue is of great public interest. Obviously, when news media file FOIs, a response that takes months or years is of no use to the current news story. Thus, there is an "expedited processing" procedure we can ask for.
With "expedited processing," my first response took a year and five months to get: a year and four months longer than the law requires. The response came from one division of the military: The Joint Staff.
Nobody else in the military has bothered to respond. The Joint Staff might as well have ignored the request: The sum total of the three pages they provided are below, followed by my letter of Appeal.
PS: My request for the After Action report from the Benghazi terrorist attacks and military response is now about a decade overdue.
FOIA case number 22-F-0396
Ms. Joo Chung, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Privacy Civil Liberties, and Transparency (PCLT)
Office of the Secretary of Defense
4800 Mark Center Drive, Mailbox #24
Alexandria, VA 22350-1700.
This is to appeal the response to my FOIA request (case listed above) on two grounds.
1. The response may be incomplete. It seems unlikely that in the month following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the sole communications, documents and materials relating to the action are three pages.
2. The redactions of the three pages provided, two of them fully redacted or blank, are unwarranted. Almost all of the redactions are made under the b(6) exemption claiming "a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of the individuals involved.” However, so much information is redacted, that it is impossible to identify any individuals involved. Therefore, information such as the date of the communications, is clearly responsive and cannot possibly be properly redacted using that exemption code. Other responsive information that is improperly redacted incudes the list of people who sent and received the communications. The existence of at least some of the names on the email and/or their divisions is not a private matter, and the release of their names and/or division does not constitute an invasion of personal privacy, particularly for those acting in their official taxpayer-paid capacity and in response to an event of great public interest.
As you know, there has been repeated guidance within the Executive Branch that great deference should be given to the public’s right to see the business conducted by those hired and paid on its behalf, and that the presumption should be one that leans toward openness and transparency, with redactions or withholding only in extraordinary circumstances. Similarly, if any additional documents are being withheld, the agency is required to state that fact, provide reasons, and release every part of each document that cannot legitimately fall under an exemption.
I hope you will give a look to the communications on these two counts and provide a better, prompt, more lawful response.