James Eli Shiffer, the Star Tribune’s watchdog and data editor, digs into data and documents to uncover the news. Reach him at 612-673-4116, james.shiffer@startribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameselishiffer. Tell us what to investigate. Send your story tips to whistleblower@startribune.com.

My mystifying journey into the world of FOIA (part 2)

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: July 25, 2014 - 10:41 AM

Last week, I invited readers along on my journey through the Freedom of Information Act via one record request filed May 20. I asked the Department of the Army for records of a government contractor who had been blacklisted in April for some kind of violation. The story so far: Aside from a letter acknowledging my request, I have received zip.

A congenial Army FOIA program analyst called me Monday morning and promised to check into my request. He kept his word, and gave me the name and number of an actual person in the Army unit that might actually be somewhere close to the record in question. I left two messages for that person, but no one called back.

On the advice of the Twitterati, I escalated to the FOIA Public Liaison, who, according to a number of government web sites, is named Bruno Leuyer. The woman who answered his phone said he was in a meeting, but did not seem to know what a FOIA public liaison was. She sent me back to the Army FOIA office, and said she would have the supervisor of the Army FOIA program manager call me that day.

Instead, I got a call from a man in the very unit, the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency, with the record. He said he had been "detailed" somewhere that prevented him from following up on requests like mine. It was clear he was reading my letter for the first time, and said he had no knowledge of the contractor that I was looking for. But the contrractor is real, I pleaded. He said he would look into it.

This is progress, FOIA-style.

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