FOIA case over “acoustic attacks” drags on

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An anti-secrecy group and New Yorker magazine today agreed to narrow the scope of their Freedom of Information Act request for documents about the purported sonic or acoustic attacks in Havana.
In May, the State Department said it had found 135,000 records in response to the FOIA request and it would process the documents at a rate of 300 pages per month, a processing time of more than 37 years.
In July, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered the parties to speed up the process.
The James Madison Project, a Washington, D.C., group that promotes government accountability, and New Yorker magazine, sued the government in February, demanding disclosure of a State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) report which addressed “circumstances surrounding medical and health problems reported by U.S. Government officials working in Cuba.” (See “Lawyer: U.S. should disclose secrets about ‘acoustic attacks'”).
A joint status report filed today stated:

  1. The parties have conferred and reached agreement on certain priorities to be assigned to the Agency’s processing of some materials.
  2. Plaintiffs have agreed that materials referenced within responsive documents that are not related to the Cuba ARB may be excluded from processing as non-responsive.
  3. Plaintiffs also agree that correspondence related solely to scheduling of meetings may be excluded from processing.
  4. Plaintiffs have further indicated that once the prioritized materials are processed for release and Plaintiffs have had the opportunity to review the release(s), Plaintiffs will reassess whether, in light of these documents, further narrowing of the records would be appropriate and will notify Defendant if so.
  5. Plaintiffs continue to object to the 300 page monthly production and believe the number should be higher, such as 750 pages per month. Defendant reiterates that if the Court would like more information, Defendant would be happy to provide a declaration with information concerning the Department of State’s FOIA resources, and its capabilities regarding processing Plaintiffs’ FOIA request.
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