Thursday, March 25, 2010

Secret Service Director's Reports
Reference Me Because of FOIAs

There's a fantastic online archive of a multitude of federal records of all sorts, from many agencies, that were pried loose through Freedom of Information Act requests. The site is and I'm proud to say my name shows up on the site a few times, all because I've made FOIA requests at federal agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service.

In the monthly briefings for the director of the Secret Service, in which he is informed of recent FOIAs filed, institutional names appear such as the Washington Post and CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, there's a blogger mentioned -- me:

Request from Proclaimed News Blogger for Entry and Exit Logs pertaining to the White House and the Camp David Compound from January 21, 2001, to February 1, 2006

The FOI/PA Program has received a request from Michael Petrelis, who identified himself as a news blogger, for access to information regarding records pertaining to the entry to and exit from the White House Complex and the Camp David Compound from January 21, 2001, to February 1, 2006. The FOI/PA Program has acknowledged receipt of the requests. A search for responsive information has been sent to PPD.

Three other FOIAs from me are also cited in the director's monthly briefings. My requests to other federal agencies are contained in other documents available at the site, which I located using the internal Google search engine on the opening page.

Hundred of files, memos, letters, and additional documents are posted at the site, as are hundred more FOIA logs from dozens of agencies. A FOIA and sunshine advocate could spend days perusing everything there, and would find many many interesting things to request from agencies, and in particular would learn new ways to ask for data from agencies. Many big thanks to the folks behind Government Attic and the FOIA officers and staffers at the agencies.

What fascinates me about FOIA logs is seeing who in the mainstream media or bloggers or ordinary citizens have made requests and what they asked for. FOIA logs also give me ideas for duplicate requests I want to make for the same records requested by others.

The logs can also guide me to ask an agency for a copy of the letter of request, the letter of response, and the records provided to the requester. The agency might also be asked for a copy of the contents of the administrative tracking/processing/handling file/folder (including memos, notes, emails, etc.) to learn how they processed the request and what might have been included or omitted. In short, more ways of bringing additional transparency to the federal government.

And speaking of FOIAs, now is a good time to remind folks that the Get Grandpa's FBI File site is an excellent resource for making requests for the files on deceased individuals. It is generally quick and easy to get an FBI file of a deceased individual. Most requesters now get a response within 3 months, and typically there is no charge for the file (although for legal reasons you must express a willingness to pay fees if there are fees).

If you want to see if the FBI has a record on you, check out and the Get My FBI File. Both sites are free and generate letters to send to the FBI.

If you've ever been curious to learn what the feds may have in the archive on you or any deceased person, please don't procrastinate about making a FOIA request on a federal agency.

FOIA is a valuable tool to keep our government honest and transparent, not to mention accessible, for the people. File a FOIA today! You, and American democracy, will be glad you did.

1 comment:

Michael Ginsborg said...

Another site of possible interest is the National Security Archives, at