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Air Force clarifies policy on FOIA documents

Dec. 6, 2012 - 10:05AM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 6, 2012 - 10:05AM  |  
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Air Force officials said Dec. 5 that the service's policy for publicly releasing documents is applied narrowly enough not to conflict with federal law.

In a series of email exchanges, the Air Force had previously seemed to indicate that it applied the policy, which requires documents to be released only in PDF format, to all information requests, including those made under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. That law requires federal agencies to release documents in any format requested, with a few exceptions.

The service initially said that the policy applied to "all documents meant for public release by the Air Force." Asked for further clarification on whether FOIA requests were included, in light of FOIA's document format rules, an Air Force spokesperson provided the following response: "I was told that PDF is the standard for the release of documents via FOIA as well. The law you referenced says documents may be released in the format requested, but typically the Air Force releases FOIA documents in PDF as well."

Based on such statements, Military Times ran an article that described the potential conflict between FOIA and the Air Force policy.

After that article was published, Air Force officials said their last statement intended to convey that while the service usually releases information requested under FOIA in PDF format, it will release the information in other formats if such a request is made.

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