Heads Up: Happy Birthday, FOIA!

Just a little public service announcement here for US citizens… In case you didn’t notice, a nifty US law called the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is about to turn 38. (It was signed into law by Pres. Lyndon Johnson on July 4, 1966.) Not necessarily a milestone birthday, but still I think the fact that it’s still surviving, especially in the current climate of sharply increased government secrecy, deserves some appreciation…

Personally, I’ve always been a big fan of FOIA. In journalism school, I had to learn to file FOIA requests as part of my coursework – and since then I’ve occasionally filed other FOIAs either for my work or to keep in practice. It’s a handy skill. It’s always interesting, sometimes surprising, and occasionally entertaining. Oh yeah, and it helps preserve and protect a functioning democratic republic too…

Do you know how to file a FOIA request? If not, then check out the new FOIA guide from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: How to Use the Federal FOI Act. It’s intended for journalists, but it’s actually useful to anyone.

Another great resource, written for a more general audience, is this ACLU guide to FOIA. However, it was last updated in 1997, before the War on Terrorism, so you might need to double-check on procedural requirements and new constraints.

So go get your guide and file a FOIA request!