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Freedom of Information Act: Requests and Records Access

FOIA.bmpWe've blogged about the Guide to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which describes general procedures and rules governing federal records requests.

FOIA requests--similar to Utah's Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) requests Marianne discussed earlier--are made to the record holding agency. Many agencies have online FOIA request submission forms, like the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission while other agencies list an email or physical address to send a request, such as the Peace Corps.

Another reason to start your records research at a federal agency's website is because the agency may have developed a FOIA request guide. For instance, the Department of Justice's FOIA guide details how to submit requests to different components within the agency.

Education and nonprofit organizations also produce publications about submitting FOIA requests. The National Security Archive's Effective FOIA Requesting for Everyone is a detailed guide including sample language for drafting a records request or appeal. The Public Citizen Foundation has a similar online FOIA guide.

Want to read documents that may have already been released? Check the agency's FOIA website for links to Reading Rooms of released and frequently requested documents. For example, the CIA has an extensive archive of released documents.

Nonprofit organizations have included FOIA documents in searchable databases. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Freedom of Information Act Project has thousands of released documents. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington created GovernmentDocs.org, a website where anyone can register and comment on documents released by FOIA.

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