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Aceves v. Department of Defense

Public Citizen represented Professor William Aceves, who requested from the Department of Defense (DOD) records relating to the selection of military members for service on military commissions. Fourteen months later, DOD informed Professor Aceves that it had located responsive records but that two of those records were documents signed by Deputy Secretaries of Defense and therefore would require processing through a higher level of review. The email asked whether Professor Aceves would accept the responsive records without those two documents. It stated that DOD would otherwise “continue processing and send the documents for higher level review,” which could “take an extensive amount of time, approximately a year or more because of the number of items that are currently in the queue for higher level review.”

Professor Aceves responded, stating that he would like to receive the responsive documents that the agency had said could be released immediately and that he understood that the remaining two documents would undergo additional review. In response, the agency stated that “a significant amount of processing time [could] be saved” if Professor Aceves accepted the records without the two that required higher review and that it would not release the other records right away unless he agreed to forego those two documents: “All of the records found along with the two … letters would have to make the rounds of higher level review as an entirety, a process that . . . may take a year or more.” Professor Aceves declined to waive his request as to the two documents. DOD then stated that it would send all of the records for higher review and that the office would respond to Professor Aceves when the review was finished.

Two months after we filed suit, DOD released all of the responsive records—including the two letters.