Wednesday, February 10, 2010
An Evaluation

I was recently made aware of two sites that make it very easy to generate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), requests directed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Since I've long been interested in FOIA and using it to bring more sunshine to the federal government and how it functions, I looked at the sites and evaluated them.

The first site is and the other is, and I am examining only the latter today. A review of the former will appear next week.


Let's start with some of what I like about the site. The top incredibly fantastic thing about this site is how easy it is to use to create a request and get the search process going. The few steps required to generate the request are simple and go a long way in showing average citizens how to use FOIA with this federal agency.

The captions under the photos designed to get you to think of potential reasons why there may be a file with your name on it, they veer from the serious to the silly. As a leftist who believes not enough people use FOIA to get their files, I very much approve of using humor like this to pique curiosity and encourage people to make requests.


The next page is broken into four boxed areas, and the second box about potential fees addresses worries filers may have about costs. Telling the FBI you're willing to pay a reasonable amount for processing the request, is strongly recommended. It's reassuring to filers that they're told they don't have to pay fee at this initial stage.

The final box for other three- and four-letter agencies, could be too esoteric for lots of average folks, but thumbs up for including the chance to file separately at those agencies. The agencies include:

National Security Agency (NSA)
Defense Security Service (DSS)
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
U.S. Marshals Service (USMS)
Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
Secret Service (USSS)
Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

The option of generating letters to these agencies is unique to, and is one more big example of how the site works to expand the number of requests on the federal government.


I followed the request-generating directions, then two letters were printed. One was to my local FBI office and the other addressed to headquarters in DC.

It's troubling to see it suggested to provide one's Social Security number, and a copy of a state-issued driver's license or photo ID. Such items are not legally required in order to file and I don't believe citizen should share their Social Security numbers in requests. No need to give the feds more details than they need to begin searching.

Here are some definite strengths to the dead tree letters generated. It takes just a few minutes to follow the easy instructions. The postal addresses of the local FBI office and the central processing center in Virginia automatically appear on the letters. Total time to generate the letters, address two envelopes, put stamps on them and place in the mail box on corner? Less than half an hour.

I hope my analysis of pushes the site's creators to tweak and improve their very good web site. The site demystifies the FBI's FOIA filing process and is a valuable resource helping more Americans to make requests.

Don't wait any longer. Cruise over to now and start the ball rolling. The sooner you file a request, the quicker you'll learn if the FBI has a file on you.

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