The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is supposed to guarantee that the press gets access to public records within a timely fashion, and has been instrumental in gathering documents related to the recent National Security Agency revelations. But the existence of the Act isn't enough to make reporters' lives easy.
Until recently, the most efficient method for making FOIA requests to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) was via fax. It was speedy and reliable, unlike snail mail and the registration-required web portal. About two weeks ago, MuckRock reports, the fax machine stopped working and won't be back up any time soon. "We would hope that it is back up sometime in October, but could extend into November," a spokesman said.
The OSD handles records related to the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff, and does not process requests for the entire Department of Defense. Even so, it's still managed to build up a substantial backlog of FOIA requests: more than 1,000 awaiting processing. Perhaps the broken fax machine will help.