Plugging the Memory Hole
A Tucson-based cyber journalist fights government secrecy, one Freedom of Information request at a time
While some folks fail at everything they try, Russ Kick has discovered one thing that he's really good at. You might say he's the master of digging up information that has been tucked away from public view by the federal government.
If at First You Don't Succeed, Lie, Lie Again
The Bush administration proves you can fool most of the people most of the time
If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.—Joseph Goebbels
Secrecy and the Bush Administration
In 1997, Texas Gov. George W. Bush signed a bill which allowed him to choose a different institution from the Texas State Archives to house his gubernatorial papers. The result: Bush deposited them in his father's Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M. This delayed the release of his documents for months due to confusion over whether they fell under FOIA timetables or quicker, in-state ones.
Filing a FOIA Request
The first thing you need to do is decide which federal agency has the information you are seeking, You should go to the library and check the descriptions of the various agencies in publications like the United States Government Organization Manual (US Government Printing Office), or call the local office of your representative in Congress. Once you have narrowed down the possibilities, you might want to call the FOIA or the public affairs office of those agencies for more specific information.
If you think you know which agency has the records you are interested in, get the specific mailing address for its FOIA office. Just go to the agency's website or look up the agency's FOIA regulation in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which you can find at the public library and on the Internet.
A Brief History of the Freedom of Information Act
Farsighted as they were, our forefathers missed a few key rights when they laid out the plan for our republic. Freedom from slavery leaps to mind, but less obvious is the right to examine some, if not all, of the innards of our government. It's so easy to overlook this "right to know," in fact, that it did not even emerge as a concept in the United States until after World War II.