Some readers may remember that I am attempting to study the condition of military prisons, beginning with Marine Corps brigs. To that end, I filed this FOIA request last November: "Please provide all Article 138 complaints filed by prisoners in USMC Brig Camp Pendleton and USMC Brig Camp Lejeune from 1/1/2010 to 11/1/2020." After four months, I received a response denying my request:
"This responds to your November 17, 2020, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for “all Article 138 complaints filed by prisoners in USMC Brig Camp Pendleton.”.... Please be advised, a proper FOIA request must “reasonably describe” the records sought. Requests that seek “any and all” documents/records, “any documents or information,” or “all documents/information” are impermissibly broad and do not comply with FOIA's requirement that the request for records reasonably describe such records. For the foregoing reason, we will administratively close this request."" This was signed by a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps with the title of SJA.
I have no doubt that gaining access to these records would take months, if not years, and would require a federal court lawsuit. Why does it have to be this hard? I know that FOIA has been used to great effect in the Bergdahl litigation and in other instances, but I would bet that on the whole it is pretty much useless unless one is willing to expend substantial time and resources. FOIA has not lived up to its promise.
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