FreedomActThe Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a final rule updating its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. FOIA gives any person the right to request access to federal agency records or information. Each federal agency is required under the FOIA to disclose records requested in writing by any person.

The final rule extends the appeals period from 60 to 90 days, which gives the person requesting information more time to appeal DHS’ response to an information request. The final rule also allows an agency to charge fees even though its response to the information request is untimely under several situations, including: (1) exceptional circumstances that were found by a court, such as unusual circumstances that have been timely advised to the information requester; (2) where more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request; and (3) when the office that processes FOIA requests has contacted the requester on ways to narrow the scope of the FOIA request. DHS also changed the language regarding a reference to public records in its final rule saying public records must be available “for public inspection in an electronic format.”

DHS receives more FOIA requests than any other federal agency.  We expect the final rule to help update and streamline FOIA procedure and improve access to DHS records.