ODNI revises rule on excessive MDR fees in response to public comments

UPDATE: April 25, 2016 – Today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) issued a revised rule that amends excessive fee provisions that would have restricted the ability of the public to request the declassification of classified ODNI records. The new rule reflects the joint comments submitted by OTG and 15 other organizations, as well as the comments submitted by Federation of American Scientists.

Under the revised rule: photocopying charges will be reduced from 50 to 10 cents per page; fees will be waived whenever costs incurred are $10 or less; and, importantly, the rule allows for a public interest waiver of fees when “the disclosure is likely to contribute significantly to the public understanding of the operations or activities of the United States Government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.”

The revised rule will go into effect June 24, 2016, unless adverse comment is received by May 25, 2016.  

On April 22, 2016, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) officially withdrew a proposal that would have severely restricted the ability of the public to file requests to declassify information held by the intelligence community.

In March, OTG submitted joint comments with 15 other organizations committed to government openness and accountability opposing the proposal, and calling attention to the importance of the MDR process as a tool for accessing declassified information held by the intelligence community. Unlike with FOIA requests, the MDR process offers an important independent review mechanism where requesters can challenge classification decisions through the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP).

The withdrawal of the ODNI rule was in direct response to public comments regarding the fee provisions. ODNI agreed with the recommendations it received, and indicated that the proposal would be replaced with fee provisions comparable to those in ODNI’s FOIA program

For more background on the ODNI and CIA MDR fee proposals, see:

Open government groups call on ODNI to remove burdensome cost barriers to mandatory declassification

ODNI’s fee proposal would prevent public requests for declassification 

Groups Protest CIA’s Covert Attack on Public Access 

 

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