U.S. Department of Education Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request Odyssey Continues

The U.S. Department of Education Freedom of Information (FOIA) Service Center should be renamed Department of Education Freedom of Information Denial Service Center. At least in my case this FOIA Service Center has little to with freedom of information and much to do with denying to send the case related information.

In the previous article I described my interactions with the Department of Education FOIA Service Center. Since then I received a response dated June 10, 2017. The response did not contain any information or documents that I had requested. None. So, I am submitting another, more specific request. Let’s see, what the response will be. If needed, next I will start contacting other institutions on this case.

All of this builds an online record, showing how the Department of Education actually operates in situations where the Department of Education is unable to validate its demands. Perhaps, at some day there will be administration that decides to support a more just course of action. Until then, this online record keeping will continue.

The bottom line is this: it is not a good idea to give too much power to a government agency without sufficient oversight of that agency’s operations. The probability is very high that such an agency will abuse the power granted to it – because it can, and because there is no incentive to maintain higher standards. If anything goes, then why bother? As a result, such an agency that has far reaching powers and operates without proper oversight will inevitably also become less beneficial and more harmful to the society and to the individuals whose lives it affects.

  • The letter published below was delivered to:
  • The U.S. Department of Education FOIA Unit, USPS Delivery Confirmation EL778989564US

ATTN: FOIA Service Center

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20202

Dear Sir or Madam,

This is a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552, as amended, and the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC 552a, as amended.

Please note that this is an open letter that I will publish on the Internet, on StopExtortion.org so that it is accessible to the general public and to other institutions.

Enclosed please find a signed copy of the Certification of Identity and Consent form.

Please process the Freedom of Information Act request listed below.

  • (ITEM 1) In order for student loan debt to exist, the relevant lending and borrowing transactions must take place. Accordingly, please send me copies of the signed lending and borrowing transactions documents that demonstrate that one or more banks lent me money as student loans and I borrowed money as student loans from one or more banks while I attended Rhode Island College from 1990 to 1996 as an undergraduate student.
  • I attended Rhode Island College as an undergraduate student from 1990 to 1996. Therefore, regarding ITEM 1, please DO NOT send me any documents or computer records that were generated after 1996 or about which it is not clear (1) who, (2) when and (3) for what purpose generated the original document or the original computer record.
  • (ITEM 2) Please send me all the information that the U.S. Department of Education has or is able to obtain from the guaranty agency and other relevant sources on my receiving Pell Grant and work-study financial aid while I attended Rhode Island College as an undergraduate student from 1990 to 1996.
  • Please note the following:
  • - This is a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552, as amended, and the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 USC 552a, as amended.
  • - The Department of Education is a department of the United States government.
  • - Both Pell Grant and work-study financial aid are federal financial aid.
  • - Therefore, Department of Education is obligated to furnish information regarding my receipt of Pell Grant and work-study financial aid.
  • If the Department of Education refuses to furnish Pell Grant and work-study financial aid related information under the Freedom of Information Act request, please state clearly and explicitly which law or regulation such refusal is based on.

Request’s Purpose and Background

I submitted Freedom of Information request on 05/09/2017. I received a response dated 06/10/2017. The Department of Education did not send me absolutely any of the requested items.

Based on the available information, the alleged loans simply do not exist. So, with my debt validation request I focused on whether or not any debt obligation actually exists: request for validation that the underlying alleged lending and borrowing transactions actually took place, that I actually received the allegedly borrowed money either directly, or indirectly as tuition support, and that the corresponding legally binding valid debt instruments exist.

In the request that I submitted on 05/09/2017 I asked for 9 categories of items. With this current request I am focusing on only 2 categories of items. Hopefully, this request can be handled properly. As needed, let’s proceed step-by-step.

Please keep in mind the following:

  • I attended Rhode Island College as an undergraduate student from 1990 to 1996. As a student, I did apply for financial aid. I am not disputing this. Therefore, there is no need to send me partial copies of financial aid applications that I filled in as an undergraduate student between 1990 to 1996. We are not disputing my applying for financial aid. Thus, partial copies of old financial aid applications are completely irrelevant to my Freedom of Information Act request.
  • I attended Rhode Island College as an undergraduate student from 1990 to 1996. If I actually did receive bank loans that paid for my education, as the Department of Education insists, then the relevant lending and borrowing transactions must have taken place before I graduated in 1996. Therefore, there is no need to send me hand written notes and documents and computer records that were generated after I graduated in 1996 as “proof” on lending and borrowing transactions that allegedly took place before I graduated in 1996.
  • I am not disputing that the guaranty agency and the Department of Education generated documents and computer records after I graduated in 1996. So, once again, there is absolutely no need to send proof of that activity.
  • Curiously, based on the available information, the “proof” of my allegedly borrowing money as student loans has been generated after I graduated in 1996. Once again, obviously such material does not in any way validate either existence of bank loans or accuracy of the records that were created years after I graduated from college.
  • So, absolutely none of the documents and computer records that have been furnished demonstrate that any bank actually lent me money as student loans, and that I borrowed money as student loans, and that I actually received the allegedly borrowed money either directly, or indirectly as tuition support, and that the corresponding legally binding valid debt instruments exist. So, the latter is the focus of my Freedom of Information Act request.

Please note that this request for information is part of an ongoing case that started in December of 2011. In the process, I have requested relevant information and documents from the Department of Education FOIA Office before. However, the Department of Education FOIA Office has never sent me the information and the documents that I actually requested. Instead, the Department of Education FOIA Office has sent me partial copies of financial aid applications that I filled in between 1990 and 1996, internal documents which seem to have been generated after I had graduated from college in 1996, computer screen snapshots of records that seem to have been generated after I had graduated from college in 1996, copies of my previous correspondence with the Department of Education and other material that is completely irrelevant to the information and documents that I actually requested from the Department of Education FOIA Office.

Such actions do not in any way contribute to resolving this case and only prolong it. Thus, I hope that with your response you will address the actually requested information and documents.

Thomas Eklund

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