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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    286

    Help With FOIA Request

    (mods I hope this is in the right section, please let me know if I screwed up)

    Hi all,

    I am doing some research that requires an FOIA request and since I've never done this before, who better to turn to than the seasoned research pros at WS. Hoping some of you that have had successful FOIA requests could give me some input.

    Here is the letter I've done [identifying info redacted]:

    Dear FOIA Officer:
    Pursuant to the federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, I request access to and copies of the contents of case file xxx. This case file pertains to xxx.
    I would like to receive the information in paper format.
    I agree to pay reasonable duplication fees for the processing of this request in an amount not to exceed xxx. However, please notify me prior to your incurring any expenses in excess of that amount.
    If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act. I will also expect you to release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. I, of course, reserve the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to deny a waiver of fees.
    As this information is of timely value, I would appreciate your communicating with me by telephone, rather than by mail, if you have questions regarding this request.
    I look forward to your reply within 20 business days, as the statute requires.
    Thank you for your assistance.
    Sincerely,
    xxx


    Is there anything you would add or subtract? Any helpful tips from successful requests you've done? I did go to their FOIA help page and learned as much as I could but something tells me it's stacked against the requester unless you word everything exactly right (bureaucrats). Would like to get it right the first time and not go through resubmissions, denials, appeals.

    TIA!!! Happy holidays to all.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Chicago IL
    Posts
    346
    If the case is still open, chances are you may not get anything since it is still considered possible evidence.
    Also, be very specific as to what you are asking for.
    Some cases have tens of thousands of pages of documents.
    Be prepared for whatever you receive being heavily censored (redacted)
    If there is too much information to go through the gov will deny your claim.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    286
    Thank you for your help, Gunther!

    I am prepared for the redactions. My uncle's file was so blacked out that we joked my aunt asked for information and all they gave was punctuation. And lots of prepositions.

    It's closed so far I know so that shouldn't be an excuse for them. I do have the specific file number, but how would I know specifically what to ask for if I don't know what's included in the file because I haven't seen it yet? If you know what I mean...

    Thanks again!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Chicago IL
    Posts
    346
    Quote Originally Posted by HawksGirl View Post
    Thank you for your help, Gunther!

    I am prepared for the redactions. My uncle's file was so blacked out that we joked my aunt asked for information and all they gave was punctuation. And lots of prepositions.

    It's closed so far I know so that shouldn't be an excuse for them. I do have the specific file number, but how would I know specifically what to ask for if I don't know what's included in the file because I haven't seen it yet? If you know what I mean...

    Thanks again!
    Every jurisdiction is different.
    Some will give you the file for free, some charge per sheet and some will give 50-100 pages for free then charge for the rest.
    What I would do is contact the agency in question with your request and ask them how large the file is and the costs involved.
    Then take it from there.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    286
    Yes, I've told them what I'm willing to pay up to a certain amount before they need to get my approval to copy any further. And I gave them quite a generous amount, imo. But when I asked last year about the file they said "it's not our job to do your research for you". Uh, if they are the only ones who know the size and contents of the file, and I can't get to it except through them, then how would I know unless they told me?!?!?! It just sounded like the usual bureaucratic run-around but what can I expect - it's obviously their job to be the gatekeeper and do the bare minimum to comply with FOIA.

    Again, thanks for your help. Fingers crossed this request goes through successfully...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Southern Arizona
    Posts
    4
    I used FOIA to get all of the files involved in my rape case, I sent my request to the agency AND I sent a copy of my request to my congress person. I got my information extremely quickly (within 6 months) Interestingly enough who ever did the redaction of my files managed to avoid/miss blacking out one section of my rapists last name and social. I never did anything with the information but it did strike me as odd.



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