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FTC's FOIA Appeal to the Bush Library

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
c/o FOIA Coordinators
2943 SMU Boulevard
Dallas, TX, 75205
Delivered via e-mail

July 11, 2018

Dear Ms. Jarrett and Ms. Culpepper,

This e-mail constitutes an appeal to the Freedom of Information Act request I submitted on May 8, 2017, that you acknowledged receipt of on April 5, 2018, and to which you responded formally on April 17, 2018 (“initial letter”).

Overall, I object to NARA’s indication that my FOIA request may not be filled for 20 years, as noted in your letter also dated April 17, 2018 (“estimate”). NARA has not yet made a determination on “approximately 429,870 pages and 667,824 electronic files of potentially responsive records,” and I urge that, in light of the pressing public need for this information, NARA do so promptly.[1] Given Mr. Kavanaugh’s status as President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, substantial and significant public benefit would result from the timely disclosure of the requested records.

Further, I am appealing NARA’s decision to withhold records on the basis that their disclosure is restricted by FOIA, by the Presidential Records Act, and/or by a personal records misfile, or PRM.

With respect to the records NARA has stated are restricted pursuant to one or more FOIA exemptions, your April 17 response letter did not provide any information on these items, apart from a generic statement that the pages in question are “restricted in access, in whole or in part,” and listing the number of pages pursuant to each exemption.

The response provides either cursory information or no information at all concerning the general contents of the documents in question, the material that is redacted, or the basis for NARA’s determination that that material is covered by the listed exemptions.

Accordingly, NARA’s response is insufficient to support its assertions that FOIA permits withholding of these records, either in whole or in part.

Moreover, as to the records the Library has stated are restricted pursuant to the PRA, although FOIA exempts records that are “specifically exempted from disclosure by statute,” 5 U.S.C. 522(b)(3), NARA has not demonstrated that the requested records in this case are subject to the disclosure restrictions in the PRA. That Act sets a default restriction of five years, with longer durations available for records a president specifies prior to leaving office.

With respect to the requested records, NARA has not shown that President Bush specifically designated them to be restricted from public disclosure for more than five years. Accordingly, NARA has not provided an adequate basis for its conclusion that these records are “specifically exempted from disclosure by statute” such that FOIA does not compel disclosure of these records.

For the foregoing reasons, NARA must release the requested records pursuant to FOIA.

I appreciate your swift consideration of this appeal. As provided in 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(A)(ii), I look forward to your determination on our appeal within 20 working days. Additionally, in light of the critical public interest in disclosure of this information prior to Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation proceedings, I hope that NARA will work with me to determine how to expedite the release of these records.

Gabe Roth

[1] This appeal does not waive or affect my right to appeal any future determinations NARA makes regarding these records.

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