The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which was enacted in 1966, provides any person or entity (U.S. citizen, foreign national, organization, association and university) the right to obtain access to any U.S. government records. All government agencies are required to disclose information to the requester in a timely manner and should respond to your request within 20 days. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains the FOIA Reference Guide for all government agencies, and it can be viewed on the department's website.
Finding the Filer Using FOIA
Prepare an FOIA request for information about the complaint filed against you. You must supply your full name (and any aliases), date of birth, place of birth, Social Security number (if applicable), an adequate description of the records that you are seeking, citizen status, current address and any other pertinent information such as the time frame involved. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers a free letter generator on its website at Rcfp.org/foialetter/index.php.
Annotate all correspondence about your request. You must write "Freedom of Information Act" on the envelope or the subject line of your fax.
Get your request notarized. The government agencies will not accept requests under the FOIA without a notarized signature on the request for information. (Any bank, library or local town hall should be able to notarize the documents for you.)
Send the request. You can mail, email or fax the request to the governing agency. Allow at least 20 days to get a response. If you do not receive a response in a timely manner, call the FOIA Requester Service Center at 202-261-8484 to have a U.S. Department of State customer service specialist assist you.
Michele Starkey is a graduate of the Christian Writers Guild. Her stories have been published by Adams Media, F&W Publications and Thomas Nelson Publishers. After living the world over, she is currently residing in the Hudson Valley of New York and is a reporter for the hometown newspaper.