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How to submit a FOIA request (and the dirt it helps find)

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The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.His legal intent is Functions of the federal government A little more transparency with the general public. The theory is that we the people pay all costs,we technically own all information produced by a federal agency.

In practice, of course, FOIA is limited, applies only to executive branches, not Congress or courts, and involves other considerations.there is national security concerns, Individual Privacy Rights, and Many Other Reasonshis government keep sure Information under reviewThat said, FOIA is an incredibly important and powerful tool, expose corruption and mismanagement And generally keep governments as honest as they can.

of FOIA can used But it’s not just journalists and lawyers.Anyone can submit FOIA requestHere’s how to do it and what you can do. Can not-Please find one.

What a FOIA request tells you

First, it’s important to know what information you can actually get with a FOIA request.as mentioned, the law applies only to the federal executive branch (the president is excluded from this). FOIA cannot be used to obtain information from state agencies, All 50 US states have some form of Freedom of Information law. It’s in the book, so you can probably get that information, even if it’s not FOIA.

You should also know that the FOIA requires these agencies to make them. record It is not intended to create new material or answer questions. Generally not able to send his FOIA request just asking his IRS a few related questions regarding the illegal chinchilla farm he has been operating for the past 6 years. Year.worldOnly certain records and documents can be requested.

The good news is that the executive branch huge, Nearly every conceivable federal agency belongs to that domain, and all of these agencies allow scientists to Kusoton of the record.so you can get many of information using FOIA. what information?

  • You can find out if the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has opened files on you (if you’ve ever been to a protest in your life, they might).
  • If you are audited, you can request documents from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • If you’ve been turned down for a federally-backed mortgage or loan, you can ask to see the relevant documentation.
  • If you’ve been charged with a crime, you can look for documents that may help your case in court.
  • You can contact the National Archives for genealogical information, including your family’s military service records.
  • Find records related to your favorite conspiracy theories, such as UFOs and the Kennedy assassination (in fact, the government completely different laws There are so many requests for these documents around JFK).

Basically you can request anything. If you’ve had a dispute with the federal government or want to know where your tax dollars are being spent, you can file a FOIA request.

FOIA restrictions

Of course, it’s not that easy.if still You have mastered the art of submitting a FOIA.and many other restrictions.

For one, the FOIA has a hard-coded list of nine exemptions, covering national defense, internal agency rules, trade secrets, legally privileged communications, personal privacy for federal employees, and of course...Geological information of wells. There are also hard-coded exclusions that allow agencies to withhold information, usually for national security concerns or active federal investigations and prosecutions.

What this means in practice is that the FOIA request may be denied.and that intention Denied, a lot.By law, federal agencies have 20 days to respond to your request, but in practice often takes years just to get a reply. The agency in question has been instructed to provide records, even if some of them are exempt from his FOIA regulations, which often results in receiving a useless set of documents. I mean mostly blacked out and editedAlso, FOIA requests are often denied outright for no reason. Litigation is often required Force institutions to release records as required by law.

Finally, remember that law allows federal agencies to charge fees to provide these records. Because they have to pay people to find them and make copies (unless they’re digital of course). See what you’re into. Fee waivers may be requested, but waivers are based on demonstrating that the information is of significant public interest value.

In other words, if you dream of sending dozens of FOIA requests to reach your goal of becoming knowledgeable, you may need to prepare for disappointment.

How to submit a FOIA request

That said, FOIA can be a powerful tool if used wisely and properly.equest is free. Always worth a try. Here’s how the FOIA r is created:request:

  1. Identify the appropriate federal agency and locate its FOIA office. You can usually find this information with a simple Google search. For example, if you search “IRS FOIA” on Google, hereMost institutions allow FOIA requests to be made via i.Internet, but some may still need physical old-fashioned letters.
  2. Know the record you’re looking for. The more specific you are, the more likely you are to get what you want. Just asking for something with your name on it will either give you nothing or a dump truck full of useless information.
  3. There is no standard form. Simply describe the record you are looking for as clearly as possible.you can find a lot sample letter above Methe internet that will give you the gist of it. Tell them why you need the information and that you are willing to pay the associated fees (you can specify the amount you are willing to pay, or request a waiver of fees if you believe the information is in the public interest) . ), and how you would like to receive your records (electronic or physical).

that’s all. Start sending that letter or form and start waiting. Ultimately, you will receive a response that either denies the request or provides the records that the agency deems necessary. You may appeal an agency’s decision within 30 days by another letter, email, or by submitting a form on the agency’s website. If the appeal is denied, the only options are to file an amended FOIA request for her for other records or to file a lawsuit.

Finally, tThe Freedom of Information Act is a powerful tool, but the same government that created it. It is cumbersome, difficult to use, and only partially effective.

How to submit a FOIA request (and the dirt it helps find)

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