Clarification from the National Archives

During a meeting at the National Archives and Records Administration, we described this project and mentioned that NARA was the only agency to deny our request thus far. NARA’s General Counsel decided to look into the issue for us. Here is part of his response:

It turns out that the FOIA staff in my office misinterpreted your request, and thought you were asking for the report that the Archivist is required to submit to the President based on the review of relevant statutes, regulations, and official NARA guidance, as required by section 3(b) of the Presidential Memorandum on Managing Government Records. That report is indeed still in draft and undergoing review, and thus was appropriately withheld under exemption (b)(5), even though we now realize that is not what you were asking for.

However, the NARA Records Officer did submit an informal report …titled “Thoughts and Recommendations Regarding the President’s Memorandum: Managing Government Records, dated November 28, 2011.” Although this is an internal, deliberative document that is not directly responsive to your request, we would be willing to exercise our discretion and release it, if it is something that you are interested in.

NARA also clarified that we could have used FOIAOnline to request the record. According to the email:

FOIAOnline can be used for FOIA requests for all of NARA’s “operational” records (i.e., the records NARA creates as a federal agency), which is administered by NARA’s FOIA Officer, who works in the Office of General Counsel (we are trying to correct that mischaracterization on the FOIAOnline homepage).  FOIAOnline cannot yet be used for the permanent, “archival” records that we preserve in the National Archives, including Presidential records at the Libraries

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find this information anywhere on FOIAOnline. When you begin to make a request to NARA, the system directs you to choose a “sub-agency.” Since the drop-down menu only lists the General Counsel’s office as an option, it creates the impression that only the General Counsel’s office is participating.

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