In 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Information Policy (OIP) issued guidance (updated in 2014) addressing agencies’ practice of sending “still interested” letters to requesters to administratively close aging requests. OIP issued guidance in 2015 specifically aimed at reducing the use of such letters. In 2016, OGIS published a report on recommendations to improve the transparency of the use of “still interested” letters to administratively close FOIA requests and reduce requester frustration with the practice. In 2017, we posted a reminder that Federal agencies should comply with OIP guidance on still interested letters.
The year is now 2020 and we continue to observe that some agencies are using “still interested” letters to close aging requests. In the spirit of a new year and a new decade, we suggest that agencies make resolutions to follow OIP guidance and:
- Limit the use of “still interested inquiries” to situations where the agency has a reasonable basis to determine that the requester’s interest in the records may have changed.
- Limit the frequency of “still interested” inquiries to the requester concerning a particular request.
- Use the requester’s preferred method of communicating.
- Provide requesters with a minimum of 30 working days to respond to “still interested” inquiries.
- Ensure that “still interested” inquiries do not disadvantage the requester in the event that a requester responds to such inquiries within a reasonable amount of time after the deadline has passed.
- Review their procedures on the use of “still-interested” inquiries to ensure they conform to OIP guidance.
OGIS continues to monitor the use of “still interested” letters, and follows up with agency FOIA programs as appropriate. If you received a “still interested” letter from an agency that does not appear to comply with OIP’s guidance, you may contact the agency’s FOIA Public Liaison and/or OGIS for assistance.