Federal Bureau of Investigation's Handling and Responsiveness to Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Requests

Gao ID: 105692 April 10, 1978

Because of increasing requests for information under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, there was a need for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to improve its organizational structure and processing procedures. Improvements have been made in processing requests and responsiveness to requesters, but further changes are needed. A project to eliminate the backlog of requests within 1 year did not achieve its goal although it did reduce the backloq considerably. FBI has expanded the types and amounts of information it releases to the public, but there are still inconsistencies in applying exemptions. Exemptions which have caused problems are those which allow information to be withheld if it would interfere with a pending investigation, constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy, or disclose confidential sources. Changes are needed in legislation and management to clarify provisions for disclosure and exemptions. The Attorney General should take action to minimize inconsistencies in implementation of the acts by providing proper guidance and to improve the processing of responses. Congress should change the time requirement for responding as it applies to FBI.

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