Many times researchers, citizens and students are not aware of one of the most powerful tools available to them: the Freedom of Information Act. What are FOIA requests? The FOIA is a federal law (established in 1966) that establishes the public’s right to obtain information from federal government agencies. This law however excludes: the Congress, the federal courts, and parts of the Executive Office of the President that function solely to advise and assist the President (like the “Czars”). Now, before you go out and try to discover any skulduggery or think you may be the next Woodward and Bernstein, be sure that you follow all of the guidelines and know exactly what you are requesting. Be aware that FOIA’s are not free, individual agencies can charge for research and coping but fees are waived many times if you can prove that your endeavor is of a scholarly nature. Fortunately, the National Security Archive (read our previous website review of this informative site) has made jumping into the quagmire of government records requests much easier. The NSA has put together a on-line manual that guides the researcher step-by-step and helps them avoid the usual pitfalls of requesting anything from the government. I highly recommend it if one is willing to go down this arduous but enriching research path.
Click here to go to the guide.