« Hot For Words: The Etymology of "Phreak" | Main | Milo Fonbil, Please Call Home »

May 04, 2009


Mark Spano

Wow, Phil, that is great news. After listening to your discussion on FOIA requests from the conference, it sounded a little daunting. I am sure this will make many lives easier. Thanks for the update.

Nick James

I must say, that's pretty impressive stuff. Good to see that government departments and their heads are still capable of making sensible decisions, and then enacting them. Thanks for the info, I'm sure it'll prove helpful (and hopeful) to many people.

Kristin Adair

Despite what Mr. Sobonya said, the FBI likely improved its search procedures because of the National Security Archive's Rosemary Award, not the Holder memo. The latter (March 19) doesn't mention searching, just disclosure, while the Rosemary award (announced March 13) was based on the fact that the FBI had a record-setting number of "no records" responses, precisely because of its inadequate search protocol. See http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20090313/index.htm
and perhaps more importantly, the March 13 Al Kamen column in the Washington Post poking fun at the FBI for its flawed search process.

Phil Lapsley

Thanks, Kristin, for that perspective, and for the National Security Archive's great work.

In the spirit of transparency :-) it is worth pointing out that Kristin is Staff Counsel at the National Security Archive.

Dr. Professor

When you note the FBI will now accept Privacy Act requests via fax or email, does that mean they don't do the same for FOIA requests? If so, why? How does one actually go about using email to make a Privacy Act request? How does the FBI quantify the request is legit (I thought a certified letter was required for purposes of establishing bona fides of a requestor, for example when requesting a search for records for oneself)?

Phil Lapsley

Herr Doktor Professor: Thanks for your comments. The FBI has accepted FOIA requests via fax or email for some time, see http://foia.fbi.gov/foia_instruc.htm. I have more expertise in FOIA than Privacy Act, but my reading of the Privacy Act is that they key requirement for a PA request is that it be "written", see http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode05/usc_sec_05_00000552---a000-.html. It is then up to each agency to publish regulations governing the specifics of how they implement/interpret the Privacy Act. In the past I believe the FBI has indeed required a certified snail mail letter for PA requests, but apparently they have now changed that. At least, so Mr. Sobonya tells me; an updated policy is not yet posted on their official web site, nor (as far as I am aware) in the Federal Register.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Just Released in Paperback

The definitive history of the phone phreaks, available in hardback, paperback, and ebook forms from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Books-A-Million or wherever fine books are sold.