FOIA stands for Freedom of Information Act. But what is it, exactly?
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. – From What is FOIA?
You can learn more about the FOIA from foia.gov, a website containing everything you may need to know about the FOIA, including data and statistics plus FAQs, answered by the US Department of Justice.
How can you go about making a FOIA request? One tool is the FOIA Letter Generator which is produced by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a legal advocacy group for journalists. This tool:
… offers templates for putting together FOIA requests and follow-up paperwork for both the federal and state governments.
As one of my colleagues put it:
What I find especially interesting: if you scroll down to “State letter” and choose New Jersey, you’ll see a short outline of hyperlinks before the various fields to be filled in. These actually link to annotations (case cites, court rules, and the NJSA) that pertain to the request process.
It may not always be as easy as described. That’s why The Center for Investigative Reporting is planning a FOIA Machine Project that is supposed to be a FOIA Letter Generator Plus, in that it will guide users through a “do-it-yourself” freedom of information request. Learn how to support this project at its kickstarter page.