FOIA REQUEST ANSWERED…OR IS IT?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sept. 12, 2010) — Following the release of several passport applications of Stanley Ann Dunham to Christopher Strunk on July 29, 2010, The Post & Email sent in its own FOIA request to the General Services Administration (GSA) for all records pertaining to the alleged destruction of “non-vital records…during the 1980s in accordance with guidance from the General Services Administration” as claimed by State Department employee Jonathan M. Rolbin to Mr. Strunk.
In an interview with The Post & Email regarding an affidavit he had filed disputing the State Department’s assertion, Mr. William Richardson explained the evolution of the GSA and NARA:
Before it became the NARA, the National Archives was part of the GSA. It was established in 1949, and in 1985 the NA broke off from the GSA and was renamed NARA. So now they’re completely separate divisions of the government in regard to reporting. And the U.S. State Department is separate, just like the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Education.
The National Archives‘ purpose is to be “the nation’s record keeper.” The agency was created by an act of Congress in 1934 to facilitate record-keeping of all government agencies by one department. In 1949, the National Archives was renamed the “National Archives and Records Service (NARS)” and became part of the General Services Administration. The GSA’s purpose today is “to use expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions and by so doing foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people.” The GSA current employs 11,792 people.
In 1985, the National Archives separated from the GSA following a “struggle” and was renamed the “National Archives and Records Administration” by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. The author of a book on the topic, Robert M. Warner, was sixth Archivist of the United States during the years 1980-85. In his book, he stated, “Hearings were held in the Senate and the House during which the GSA Administrator inadvertently advanced our cause by threatening removal of senior staff, from the Archivist of the United States on down. This abuse of the Archives created a wellspring of sympathy for the Archivist and his troops and actually aided us in our campaign…The good guys finally won, and on April 1, 1985, the National Archives was “Free at Last.”
As a result of the separation of the two entities, were passport applications and records ordered destroyed? According to the response from Sharon V. Lighton of the GSA, “Authorization and the destruction of Federal records is the responsibility of NARA…Therefore, you would need to contact NARA…”
NARA’s policy for maintaining and destroying its own employees’ passport records, identification materials, and “parking space permits” is here. A manager from the GSA had stated to Mr. Richardson that the GSA also has a policy which covers its own employees’ personal information as he performed his investigation cited above.
On April 8, 2008, the National Archives held a symposium on “passport records” designed to inform attendees about “passport applications that are in the custody of the National Archives and those that still remain with the U.S. Department of State.” A second presentation was held two days later at the College Park, MD location of the National Archives.
The U.S. State Department’s website states that “Passport Services maintains United States passport records for passports issued from 1925 to the present. These records normally consist of applications for United States passports and supporting evidence of United States citizenship, and are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, (5 USC 552(a)). Passport records do not include evidence of travel such as entrance/exit stamps, visas, residence permits, etc., since this information is entered into the passport book after it is issued.”
The Privacy Act of 1974 appears to limit the release of passport information to an individual requesting his or her own record with certain exceptions. To make a request for the passport of someone else, the following condition has been put in place:
c. Third-Party Requests
Third party requests must include one of the following:
- Notarized consent from the owner of the passport records,
- Proof of guardianship,
- Death certificate, or
- Court order signed by a judge of competent jurisdiction requesting the Department of State to release passport records.
There are records showing that she attended the University of Hawaii in the fall of 1960 and the University of Washington beginning in the fall of 1961 through spring 1962, although those could have been correspondence courses. However, while the University of Washington registrar sent email verification of Dunham Obama’s enrollment for those dates, two requests for her records have gone unanswered. Is it possible that correspondence courses allowed her to be out of the country?
As evidenced by the applications released to Mr. Strunk, at that time, the passport applicant was asked to provide a reason for international travel as well as the expected length of stay in the foreign country, apparently in contradiction to, or prior to the issuing of the State Department’s official statement above. Why were records from 1965 and after released for Stanley Ann Dunham, but those from the years 1960-64 were not? Stanley Ann’s son, Barack Hussein Obama II, allegedly was born during one of those years, 1961. If he was born in Hawaii as he claims, why weren’t those records released which would reflect that fact? And why is the GSA denying the veracity of Mr. Boldin’s statement?
If passport records are maintained “from 1925 to the present,” then who ordered the alleged destruction of the records of Stanley Ann Dunham, who, as far as we know, was not a government employee? And why is the State Department claiming that the GSA ordered it, when the GSA does not have responsibility for the maintenance of records, except for its own employees? Where is the proof of such claim?
On August 9, 2010, The Post & Email sent the following letter to the GSA, enclosing the letter from Mr. Boldin for reference:
Via Facsimile and Standard Mail
August 9, 2010
Ms. Sharon Lighton
General Services Administration
FOIA Requester Service Center (ACMC)
1800 F Street, NW, Room 3116
Washington, DC 20405
Dear Ms. Lighton:
RE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUEST (1966)
According to the signer of the enclosed letter recently sent to Mr. Christopher Strunk in response to a FOIA request and subsequent lawsuit filed by same, your agency provided “guidance” to have passport records destroyed from the early 1960s.
My FOIA request is for the documentation generated by your agency which authorized that process and for all documentation relating to why passport records would have been “destroyed” when the National Archives website states that passport records are maintained for 100 years or more.
Thank you very much.
After several weeks of no response, a follow-up email was sent:
From: Sharon Rondeau
Sent: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 6:54 PM
Subject: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUEST
Hello, Ms. Lighton:
I sent a request by letter and fax about three weeks ago requesting information through the Freedom of Information Act of 1966.
The information I am requesting is any and all documentation regarding an alleged order by the GSA given in the 1980s to “destroy” passport applications and records. This order was referenced by Mr. Jonathan Rolbin of the Bureau of Consular Affairs in a letter written to Mr. Christopher Earl Strunk at the end of July, and I enclosed and faxed a copy of it to you along with my request.
I would like to know the status of my inquiry. I am willing ot pay the customary fees of copying and mailing.
Thank you very much.
An auto-response was then received stating that Ms. Lighton was out of the office until August 30, 2010.
On September 11, 2010, the following letter was received:
September 9, 2010
Ms. Sharon Rondeau
Dear Ms. Rondeau:
This is response to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request you submitted to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) for information regarding the destruction of passports.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) provide records management oversight and guidance for Federal agencies. NARA was incorporated into GSA in 1949. However, in 1984 Congress reestablished it as an independent agency. Authorization and the destruction of Federal records is the responsibility of NARA. The Department’s Records Management Program is responsible for ensuring that the legal, financial, evidentiary and historical transactions are recorded accurately and completely.
Therefore, you would need to contact NARA at the address below:
Office of the General Counsel
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
telephone number: (301) 837-2025
Sharon V. Lighton
GSA FOIA Office
A search engine located here yielded multiple results for the name “Stanley Ann Dunham,” including the last name “Sutoro” and references to her parents, Stanley A. Dunham and Madelyn Lee Dunham. Using the same search engine brought up four pages of references for “Barack Hussein Obama,” some including “Michelle S. Obama.” How many records are available but hidden on these people, and why is the State Department apparently misinforming the public about the disposition of records?