Thursday, February 8, 2018


In this post we'll take a look at some resources and tips for submitting Freedom of Information Act requests. You may send requests to virtually any type of government body or agency, and submissions are typically accepted via websites, email, fax or standard mail. 

First we'll consider where to send an FOIA request, then we'll explore how you might choose to compose your submission. Below are just a few potential sources. 

FOIA Sources

FOIA requests may be emailed to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at This is where you submit requests about the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program. A current Pentagon spokesperson verified the existence of the former project and DIA was identified as responsible for it. You might therefore choose to cite such statements. Calls for proposals, project reports and budgets are all fair game. So are details of the modified buildings for storing alloys recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena, as well as physical examinations of UFO witnesses reported by the NYT. Learn more about the Agency's FOIA procedures at the DIA website

Requests to the National Security Agency (NSA) may be submitted online. While it is a simple and user-friendly set up, you might want to have the body of your request already composed on a word processing program for easy copy and paste to the NSA website form.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) offers a similar FOIA procedure as NSA. Most requests can be submitted online.

Learn about FOIA requests to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the Bureau website. Requests may be sent online.

You might choose to inquire to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) when seeking some older files. Read about the Admin's FOIA process at the NARA website and email your requests to You can check out my pending FOIA appeal to NARA about circumstances surrounding historical context of 1946-47 UFO reports and inspired by the work of James Carrion.

Composing a Request

Many government websites provide sample requests. Below is an outline of a somewhat typical request, followed by some brief explanations:

[Title and mailing address of agency]

[Your name, address, and contact info]


This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
[Description of files and documents sought]
A fee waiver is requested on the grounds I am a freelance writer, the requested information will be published in ways that are not primarily commercial, and the requested information stands to assist the public in understanding government operations. If fees are deemed applicable, please notify me before processing if costs are estimated to exceed $30.
I prefer the requested files be delivered electronically, but agree to other delivery means if considered more practical or efficient.
Thank you for your attention to my request.

[Your name]

Most of it is pretty self-explanatory, such as you'll want to be as clear as possible about files requested. More on that shortly.

If you desire to request a fee waiver, you might want to familiarize yourself with the related protocols and explain some grounds for the requested waiver. One way or the other, be sure to provide an amount you are willing to pay, specifying you want to be notified prior to processing if costs are estimated to exceed the amount. You might also choose to clarify how you prefer the files be delivered, such as emailed or saved on a disc and shipped. 


While you may compose your request around virtually any topic, you definitely want to form your query in a way that seeks documents. There are a number of ways to do this effectively. One is to cite an already public document that establishes the existence of another document, the file you seek.

For instance, I obtained a previously unreleased 1978 NSA memo on events occurring at the annual MUFON Symposium of the same year. This was achieved by citing the statements of NSA man Eugene F. Yeates, who, in a document known as the Yeates affidavit, referenced a document authored by an NSA assignee pertaining to a UFO symposium. Following an FOIA request to NSA for the specific doc mentioned by Yeates, NSA released the majority of the memo. You may view the memo and read more in a related blog post. Such documents as the Yeates affidavit may be excellent sources for FOIA topics. 

You might want to spend some time browsing the online reading rooms of such agencies as listed above. Then, when you find something that peaks your interest, file some FOIA requests around it, citing the related document. I include a web link to the cited doc in the request, along with identifiers such as its title and date, as well as the page number quoted.

Another option is to request what is known as a Mandatory Declassification Review, or MDR, of a fully or partially withheld document. A bit of success was achieved when I filed an FOIA request to NSA, asking it to conduct a declassification review of a partially withheld doc titled UFOs and the Intelligence Community Blind Spot to Surprise and Deceptive Data. NSA subsequently released the item in full, and you can read more about it in my blog post on the topic. An MDR may be an effective way to get more information released.

As you compose requests and obtain files, let the community and other researchers know what's effective. You might blog about your work and upload files for public viewing to websites such as, among others. Read more about my efforts by clicking on the FOIA blog label

We must wade in and start filing to gain some experience, and, as is the case with anything, skills improve over time. Good luck. Post about how it goes, and, remember, we can't succeed if we don't try.

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