Monday, June 23, 2008

How do I make a FOIA request?

Question: What government form do I use to make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of the federal government?

Answer: There is no one standard FOIA form good for all agencies. While all federal executive agencies are required to comply with FOIA, they are allowed to have different procedures for accepting requests. Many agencies will accept a letter written in a specific format. You can see sample letters at the University of Missouri School of Journalism at http://www.nfoic.org/foi-center/. You can generate your own FOIA request letter if you are willing to fill out an online form using the FOI Letter generator at http://www.rcfp.org/foia.

Depending on what you're looking for, you might not need a FOIA request. For example, if you're looking for Albert Einstein's FBI record, just visit the FBI's Electronic Reading Room at http://www.fbi.gov/foia/. Many other agencies have FOIA electronic reading rooms. For a selection,
please visit http://archive-it.org/collections/924.

For more information on the Freedom of Information Act, please see the "FOIA primer" from the National Security Archive at http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/foia/guide.html.

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