§ 402.140. How a request for a record is processed.

(a) In general, we will make a determination as to whether a requested record will be provided within 20 days (excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after receipt of a request by the appropriate official (see § 402.135). This 20-day period may be extended in unusual circumstances by written notice to you, explaining why we need additional time, and the extension may be for up to 10 additional working days when one or more of the following situations exist:

(1) The office processing the request needs to locate and then obtain the record from another facility;

(2) We need to locate, obtain, and appropriately examine a large number of records which are requested in a single request; or

(3) The office processing the request needs to consult with another agency which has a substantial interest in the subject matter of the request. This consultation shall be conducted with all practicable speed.

(b) If we cannot process your request within 10 additional days, we will notify you and provide you an opportunity to limit the scope of the request so that it may be processed within the additional 10 days, or we will provide you with an opportunity to arrange with us an alternative time frame for processing the request, or for processing a modified request.

(c) Multi-tracking procedures. We will establish four tracks for handling requests and the track to which a request is assigned will depend on the nature of the request and the estimated processing time:

(1) Track 1—Requests that can be answered with readily available records or information. These are the fastest to process.

(2) Track 2—Requests where we need records or information from other offices throughout the Agency but we do not expect that the decision on disclosure will be as time consuming as for requests in Track 3.

(3) Track 3—Requests which require a decision or input from another office or agency and a considerable amount of time will be needed for that, or the request is complicated or involves a large number of records. Usually, these cases will take the longest to process.

(4) Track 4—Requests that will be expedited.

(d) We will provide for expedited access for requesters who show a “compelling need” for a speedy response. The EFOIA describes compelling need as when the failure to obtain the records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose “an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual,” or when the request is from a person primarily engaged in disseminating information (such as a member of the news media), and there is an “urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged Federal Government activity.” We also will expedite processing of a request if the requester explains in detail to our satisfaction that a prompt response is needed because the requester may be denied a legal right, benefit, or remedy without the requested information, and that it cannot be obtained elsewhere in a reasonable amount of time. We will respond within 10 days to a request for expedited processing and, if we decide to grant expedited processing, we will then notify you of our decision whether or not to disclose the records requested as soon as practicable.

[63 FR 35133, June 29, 1998]