(a) Requirements for filing an appeal.
(1) A requester may appeal adverse determinations denying his or her request or any part of the request to the appropriate Appeals Officer. A requester may also appeal if he or she questions the adequacy of the component's search for responsive records, or believes the component either misinterpreted the request or did not address all aspects of the request (i.e., it issued an incomplete response), or if the requester believes there is a procedural deficiency (e.g., fees were improperly calculated). For the address of the appropriate component Appeals Officer, contact the applicable component FOIA liaison using the information in appendix I to this subpart, visit www.dhs.gov/foia, or call 1-866-431-0486. An appeal must be in writing, and to be considered timely it must be postmarked or, in the case of electronic submissions, transmitted to the Appeals Officer within 90 working days after the date of the component's response. An electronically filed appeal will be considered timely if transmitted to the Appeals Officer by 11:59:59 p.m. ET or EDT on the 90th working day. The appeal should clearly identify the component determination (including the assigned request number if the requester knows it) that is being appealed and should contain the reasons the requester believes the determination was erroneous. To facilitate handling, the requester should mark both the letter and the envelope, or the transmittal line in the case of electronic transmissions “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.”
(2) An adverse determination by the component appeals officer will be the final action of DHS.
(b) Adjudication of appeals.
(1) The DHS Office of the General Counsel or its designee (e.g., component Appeals Officers) is the authorized appeals authority for DHS;
(2) On receipt of any appeal involving classified information, the Appeals Officer shall consult with the Chief Security Officer, and take appropriate action to ensure compliance with 6 CFR part 7;
(3) If the appeal becomes the subject of a lawsuit, the Appeals Officer is not required to act further on the appeal.
(c) Appeal decisions. The decision on the appeal will be made in writing. A decision that upholds a component's determination will contain a statement that identifies the reasons for the affirmance, including any FOIA exemptions applied. The decision will provide the requester with notification of the statutory right to file a lawsuit and will inform the requester of the mediation services offered by the Office of Government Information Services, of the National Archives and Records Administration, as a non-exclusive alternative to litigation. Should the requester elect to mediate any dispute related to the FOIA request with the Office of Government Information Services, DHS and its components will participate in the mediation process in good faith. If the adverse decision is reversed or modified on appeal, in whole or in part, the requester will be notified in a written decision and the request will be thereafter be further processed in accordance with that appeal decision.
(d) Time limit for issuing appeal decision. The statutory time limit for responding to appeals is generally 20 working days after receipt. However, the Appeals Officer may extend the time limit for responding to an appeal provided the circumstances set forth in 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(B)(i) are met.
(e) Appeal necessary before seeking court review. If a requester wishes to seek court review of a component's adverse determination on a matter appealable under paragraph (a)(1) of this section, the requester must generally first appeal it under this subpart. However, a requester is not required to first file an appeal of an adverse determination of a request for expedited processing prior to seeking court review.