The FOIA has changed considerable over the last 15 years. And frankly it is more difficult now to use.
Main documents obtained on the subject of the UFO are usually, but not always censored. Sometimes the document can be a general collection document (like the state department) and have numerous subjects, which are normally censored if you have made a specific request for a certain subject. This is done to limited the amount of information released, thus restrict any further insight which maybe gained via further enquirers.
The distribution list can be very telling. In the UFO subject, it is worth following up some of the agencies or departments on the list. Filing requests asking for documents from certain departments can yield information. It is best to narrow down the requests until you find the recipient of the document in question. Then it begs the question.....why would they have the document in the first place? Also did they receive any others? Filing a request for those documents also can yield information.
Freedom of Information Act: The Double Edge Sword
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures and grants nine exemptions to the statute. It was originally enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 4, 1966 as 5 U.S.C. § 552 of Pub.L. 89-554 which enacted Title 5 of the United States Code, and went into effect the following year.
It has received many amendments since it’s original creation, and each federal agency has enacted its own interpretation and regulations and incorporated these into the FOIA.
Tricks of the Trade
There is a number of “tricks” or “intelligence techniques” which can be used by those who implement these regulatory procedures, in order to restrict your access to information, especially if the information is of political nature, intelligence nature or does not follow the current public's perception of what those in power wish you to have.
One of the primary concerns, of any government body to a FOIA request is the “public's reaction” to any information that is deemed releasable. They do not want a “public headache” which may result in the reaction to the releasable documents.
A number of activities the intelligence services as well as other government departments deliberately and/or systematic use in order to make your FOIA request more difficult to obtain any useful documentation:
1. Deny any records exist.
2. Cannot confirm or deny any records exist.
3. Provide proof that the documents you seek exist in order for the authorities to find the records.
4. Provide copies of the documents you wish to obtain, so they can locate the documents you wish declassified.
5. Charge outlandish fees for unresponsive requests.
6. Provide releasable documents, which are almost completely censored
7. Very long period of time passes before they respond to your request for documents, then deny any documents exist.
8. Provide documentation which is already available in the public arena.
9. Providing information of such a low grade is wasn’t worth the effort of the FOIA request.
10. Provided rehashed material, and nothing new is released.
11. Providing almost unreadable documentation stating it is the “best copy available”
12. Sending your FOIA request to the wrong department or agency in order to obtain a “no records” exist response.
13. Provide a blanket response to a FOIA on a particular subject.
14. State they never received your FOIA request.
15. Obtain more specific information out of the requester that any information they provide you via the FOIA.
16. Confirming the records exist, but cannot locate the source of the documents you requested.
17. Move the documents so they are under the preview of a “non governmental” organization, thus not subject to the FOIA.
18. Documents releasable under one agencies regulations, but not another, even though it is the same information.
19. State they have sent copies to you of documents which have been declassified, but they never arrive.
20. Send a one line response, “no records exist”.
21. Provide you with a “Fact Sheet” as a response to a FOIA request, even though this “Fact Sheet” is available freely without a FOIA request.
22. Use technical jargon of such complexity, as not to understand the nature of the response, since it involves detailed understanding of that particular agency.
23. Provide you with important documents, but providing a counter response to dumb down the contents of the documents they have provide you.
All the aforementioned has over a period of time happen to me during my FOIA requests.
One final point. I have noted also, that if there is a certain subject or event gets publicity or a lot of FOIA requests are made to a particular agency regarding these matters, they soon develop a standard response and gets you know where, which in turn can closes doors. Hence obtain all you can from any documents and leads the documents can provide, before going public, complete your research as best you can. When filing a FOIA request be specific as possible, about a event or subject, generalization are usually ineffective. Also some responses on a certain subject may get different replies depending on whom the requester is, this is another problem one faces.