Freedom of Information Act Can Help Researchers Uncover Important Records

Washington, D.C. - Bloggers across the Internet have shown that you don't have to be part of the mainstream media to uncover an important story and tell it to the world. But how do you start investigating a big story for your blog?

Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released tips for bloggers who want the inside story on government agencies. The Bloggers' FAQ on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) outlines how to use open government laws to get access to records kept by federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"Online journalism makes a unique contribution to America's vibrant culture of free speech," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Using the Freedom of Information Act is a powerful way to shed light on government activities and foster critical public debate about the discoveries."

The guide walks bloggers through making a FOIA request -- addressing what to ask for, which government offices must comply, and what you can and cannot obtain through FOIA. It also explains how to put requests on the fast track and get processing fees waived.

The guide is the most recent product of EFF's FLAG Project, which uses FOIA requests and litigation to expose the government's expanding use of technologies that invade privacy. Earlier this month, the FLAG Project filed lawsuits demanding that the FBI release records concerning the development of two electronic surveillance tools as well as information about the FBI's "Investigative Data Warehouse" (IDW) -- a huge database that contains hundreds of millions of entries of personal information.

"The FLAG Project investigates privacy-invasive tools and policies fostered by the government. There are many other important issues out there in which a blogger can make a difference," EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel said. "Everyone has the ability through FOIA to discover government corruption, fraud and waste, and to publicize those abuses of power."

For the Bloggers' FAQ on the Freedom of Information Act:

For the complete Legal Guide for Bloggers:

For more on EFF's FLAG Project


Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

David Sobel
Senior Counsel
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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