Tuesday, June 12, 2007

White House to spend 200 years considering FOIA request

Today I received a letter responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request appeal I recently filed with the Office of National Drug Control Policy:

I knew federal agencies usually take their sweet time processing FOIA requests, but did the ONDCP really just tell me that I can expect a response by June 22, 2207?!?!?!?!?

Perhaps this is just another embarrassing ONDCP typo. Otherwise, let's hope that by the time ONDCP is able to respond to my request, drug prohibition will have already been repealed. Or maybe, through a series of invasive new technologies - like bio scanners, drug-sniffing bees, and "good drugs" that inhibit the effects of "bad drugs" - the government will have achieved its goal of completely eliminating illegal drug use (yeah right!).

In any case, the FOIA request currently being considered is an effort to get our hands on copies of the government's anti-drug ads from a few years ago that linked using drugs to supporting terrorism. Why won't the White House just give me copies of ads that were produced and aired with taxpayer money? Maybe it's because they are so embarrassed about the content of their own ridiculous advertisements that they don't want anyone to see them anymore...

If you're tired of seeing your tax dollars wasted on absurd anti-drug propaganda, you can easily ask your legislators to defund them by entering your e-mail address here:
Email Address:

UPDATE: I just received a call from the ONDCP's Daniel Petersen, who was apparently upset about my post making fun of his letter. (Is ONDCP really reading this blog regularly?!?) "If you're going to play games like this, you can expect the same kind of games to be played on you," he said. What kinds of schemes does ONDCP have planned for us, anyway? Mr. Petersen also called me "childish."


Anonymous said...

I can't stop laughing. Honestly.

Anonymous said...

As a public servant Daniel Petersen works for the taxpayer. In other words, he works for you, Tom Angell, as much as he works for me.

His petulant and high-handed response is outrageous. When he grants a FOIA request or otherwise complies with his duties as an officer of an elected government, he is not doing you a favor. Rather he is doing his job--which, not incidentally, is also his duty.

He has no right to treat you in a manner that is anything but fair, courteous, and professional.

If we had a decent government, Petersen would be reprimanded by his boss.

Since we are, in real life, governed by bandits and thugs, Petersen is probably being praised by his boss.

No one said life is fair.

Anonymous said...

That's just strange.

Wait a minute! Is there any chance Daniel Petersen was high on drugs when he made that call?

I'm just thinking out loud, of course. I'm not actually saying that Daniel Petersen was high on drugs when he did that irrational thing. He might just naturally behave like a petulant tool.

I'm not actually saying that Daniel Petersen is a petulant tool, I'm just saying he might (or might not) behave like a petulant tool due to him being (or not being) high on drugs.

Oh, and apparently he thinks it's OK to threaten citizens from his government office. I'm pretty much saying that straight out.

Rebecca Ogle said...

He called you what?

Well you just tell him he's a big fat poopyhead, who, coincidentally, smells.

And if he wants to play games, I'm willing to sit down and play Scrabble. Bring it on.

Micah Daigle said...

You know what the poetic irony of this is?

Since Tom made this post this afternoon, we've been linked by several big blogs, and the blog received about 20 times the amount of visits that we average per day. While we don't have the stats for our action alert yet, we can presume that at least some of those new visitors took action and sent letters to Congress asking them to defund the ONDCP's ad campaign.

Thanks, Mr. Petersen, for taking the time to call our office today! You undoubtedly contributed quite a bit to our campaign to slash your office's budget.

Accountability. The Anti-Drug-Czar.

Anonymous said...

Have you posted the original FOIA request?

Anonymous said...

And have you posted the original denial of your request, which I assume contains some sort of reason?

Anonymous said...

Daniel R. Petersen
(202) 395-6745

In case anyone wants to comment on his 'games' comment...

Unknown said...

It would be interesting to know what "games" he had in mind. Responding to the FOIA is not only his duty, as has been pointed out here already. It is actually a law, passed by Congress, requiring that ONDCP must respond. Beyond including a silly picture in the envelope, I don't see how he has very much latitude in this to deviate from normal procedures.

Unknown said...

Haven't really set up a blogger account yet -- it's Dave Borden, for anyone who was wondering.

Anonymous said...

It's enough to make you wonder if the ONDCP has engaged in the same hiring practices that the Justice Department is currently being raked over the coals for. Namely, you don't have to know anything about the subject, just be a fanatically loyal, good little apparatchik and reflexively bark wrote propaganda when you hear the dog whistle. Oh, and letting the 'scum' know their place is helpful, too. The problem is those they take such a dim view of pay their salaries. This wasn't a very smart move.

Anonymous said...

He should have apologized for the ridiculous spelling error (don't they have people to proof read letters?). I work for a State Legislature and I know we'd be embarrassed by something like this, and certainly would not resort to calling the requestor names!

He should be ashamed of himself. He has no right to respond to you in such a way. Part of his classification agreement requires that he deal with the public in "respectful manner."

Anonymous said...

You should send a copy to Congressman Henry Waxman's office. He is the chairman of the Government Reform Committee and will go to bat for you. Also include your member for propriety's sake. But this is exactly the kind of thing the new, Democratic majority would love to dive on.

Have some fun with it! Stick it to the man.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Petersen's incompetence and arrogance will probably mean he'll be soon getting a PROMOTION in the Bush Administration.

(On a side note, did you catch W referring to the Federal Governemnt as "my government" recently?)

Anonymous said...

I filed a FOIA request a few weeks ago about a scientific misconduct case and I got a huge envelope in the mail just days later with all the details of the case.

The misconduct didn't have anything to do with the government, though. Hmm...

Bill Robinson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Robinson said...

Not only is he a jerk, but he also appears to be borderline illiterate:
- "an appeal FROM the denial"?
- "the General Counsel is PREDISPOSED until June 19, 2007"?
- "we must ENLARGE... the time provided?"

Does he have a first language?

Anonymous said...

Given Dan Petersen's track record, neither aspect if this is surprising. In the past, his position would have been filled by a competent, non-political employee. Sign of the times.

Anonymous said...

Does that letter actually say "the General Counsel is predisposed"? To be predisposed means to be already inclined to do or believe or come down with something, or to be particularly susceptible to something (a disease), due to previous experience, mental bias, genetics, or whatever. You're predisposed to something, not just predisposed in general. Honestly!

annum natalem said...

Boing Boing pointed me here. I'm sure it was a typo, but he had no right to speak to you that way. Jeez, if I'd made the typo, I'd have probably e-mailed you and apologized and possibly laughed about it.

Does working for the government make one uptight?

Aaron Kinney said...

I just sent mr. petersen an email, the contents of which I have reproduced below for your convenience:

To: Daniel_r._petersen@ondcp.eop.gov

When one works for the SSDP, the act of pointing out an embarrasing typo on the part of a government agency (a typo that has potentially profound consequences no less), is not known as "playing games," it is known as "hard work."

On the other hand, when one who works for the ONDCP commits a rather significant typo, and then places bullying phone calls upon having their error pointed out, it is not known as "hard worjk," but as "playing games." In the private business world, those kinds of actions tend to result in an all-too-justifiable termination of employment. Unfortunately, I do not know if government offices hold themselves to as high of a standard. However, as a taxpaying citizen, I should hope that they do.

Both public opinion and common sensibility suggest that, as a representative of the ONDCP, you stop "playing games" yourself, and stop accusing others of doing the same when it is your own error that is to blame.

The Freedom of Information Act is one of many governmental provisions that are designed specifically to protect the interests of the public from the likes of you. As a United States citizen, you, Mr. Petersen, should be eternally grateful that 1) such protections exist, and 2) that college students are organizing themselves to use such tools effectively. Accordingly, you should treat the FoIA and all its associated requests with the same respect that you treat a judge, the flag, or the constitution. Such things should serve as reminders of the freedoms that each of us possess and cherish.

If you are still not convinced of the usefulness and legitimacy of the FoIA and similar public protections, and if you still wish to find yourself in an environment where you can "play games" with impunity from the captain's chair of some powerful government agency, then I think you will find it useful to know that you have the legal option of renouncing your US citizenship and taking residence in a country that is more amicable to your interests.

Aaron Kinney

Lets hope that he actually absorbs the content of my email, and spends a few brain cycles pondering its meaning.

Oh yea, and if anyone wants to send him an email I included his address at the top of my letter there.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the FOIA law specifically prohibits government employees from making threats resulting from FOIA requests. If not in FOIA it's probably statute law. Bush 43 also made an executive order ostensibly to streamline FOIA requests and backlogs.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It's a ploy. P-L-O-Y, ploy!


Anonymous said...


On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your correspondence.

We appreciate hearing your views and welcome your suggestions.

Due to the large volume of e-mail received, the White House cannot
respond to every message.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.