(a) General information.
(1) DHS has a decentralized system for responding to FOIA requests, with each component designating a FOIA office to process records from that component. All components have the capability to receive requests electronically, either through email or a web portal. To make a request for DHS records, a requester should write directly to the FOIA office of the component that maintains the records being sought. A request will receive the quickest possible response if it is addressed to the FOIA office of the component that maintains the records sought. DHS's FOIA Reference Guide contains or refers the reader to descriptions of the functions of each component and provides other information that is helpful in determining where to make a request. Each component's FOIA office and any additional requirements for submitting a request to a given component are listed in appendix I of this subpart. These references can all be used by requesters to determine where to send their requests within DHS.
(2) A requester may also send his or her request to the Privacy Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 245 Murray Lane SW STOP-0655, or via the internet at http://www.dhs.gov/dhs-foia-request-submission-form, or via fax to (202) 343-4011. The Privacy Office will forward the request to the component(s) that it determines to be most likely to maintain the records that are sought.
(3) A requester who is making a request for records about him or herself must comply with the verification of identity provision set forth in subpart B of this part.
(4) Where a request for records pertains to a third party, a requester may receive greater access by submitting either a notarized authorization signed by that individual, in compliance with the verification of identity provision set forth in subpart B of this part, or a declaration made in compliance with the requirements set forth in 28 U.S.C. 1746 by that individual, authorizing disclosure of the records to the requester, or by submitting proof that the individual is deceased (e.g., a copy of a death certificate or an obituary). As an exercise of its administrative discretion, each component can require a requester to supply additional information if necessary in order to verify that a particular individual has consented to disclosure.
(b) Description of records sought. Requesters must describe the records sought in sufficient detail to enable DHS personnel to locate them with a reasonable amount of effort. A reasonable description contains sufficient information to permit an organized, non-random search for the record based on the component's filing arrangements and existing retrieval systems. To the extent possible, requesters should include specific information that may assist a component in identifying the requested records, such as the date, title or name, author, recipient, subject matter of the record, case number, file designation, or reference number. Requesters should refer to appendix I of this subpart for additional component-specific requirements. In general, requesters should include as much detail as possible about the specific records or the types of records that they are seeking. Before submitting their requests, requesters may contact the component's FOIA Officer or FOIA public liaison to discuss the records they are seeking and to receive assistance in describing the records. If after receiving a request, a component determines that it does not reasonably describe the records sought, the component should inform the requester what additional information is needed or why the request is otherwise insufficient. Requesters who are attempting to reformulate or modify such a request may discuss their request with the component's designated FOIA Officer, its FOIA Public Liaison, or a representative of the DHS Privacy Office, each of whom is available to assist the requester in reasonably describing the records sought.
(c) If a request does not adequately describe the records sought, DHS may at its discretion either administratively close the request or seek additional information from the requester. Requests for clarification or more information will be made in writing (either via U.S. mail or electronic mail whenever possible). Requesters may respond by U.S. Mail or by electronic mail regardless of the method used by DHS to transmit the request for additional information. In order to be considered timely, responses to requests for additional information must be postmarked or received by electronic mail within 30 working days of the postmark date or date of the electronic mail request for additional information or received by electronic mail by 11:59:59 p.m. ET on the 30th working day. If the requester does not respond to a request for additional information within thirty (30) working days, the request may be administratively closed at DHS's discretion. This administrative closure does not prejudice the requester's ability to submit a new request for further consideration with additional information.