do Jackie Kennedy, the Beatles, Albert Einstein, Gracie Allen,
Thurgood Marshall, and Walter Winchell have in common?
are all part of historical FBI records... though for a variety
of different reasons. One had a background investigation for
government service. One received extortionate threats. One
had open communist affiliations. One needed security for a
family trip abroad. One actively helped FBI investigations.
One tried to smuggle jewelry into the U.S. And not necessarily
in that order.
in all the details? Just go to the Electronic
Reading Room at the FBI's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
website. These files include some of the 50+ new additions
to the site, posted there for researchers interested in federal
records on everything from Alcoholics Anonymous to UFOs.
are we releasing all these records? It's the law.
Following passage of the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy
Act, and some amendments to them, the FBI (with every other
federal agency) began disclosing its records, upon written
request, on a case by case basis... only blacking out information
cited in the laws' nine exemptions and three exclusions, which
are largely designed to protect national and economic security
and to protect the privacy of persons who appear in FBI records.
many requests are we talking about? Hundreds of thousands...
and still counting.
many pages of records are we talking about? Don't
be shocked: millions... and still counting. After all, information
is the business of law enforcement -- writing down all those
interviews and recording all that crime scene evidence.
a Reading Room? It turned out that so many people
were interested in the same files that it just made sense
to put them in a physical library at Headquarters for researchers
to visit and use freely. But it was tough on researchers,
who had to travel all the way to Washington and compete with
others for the few chairs in what was generally regarded as
pretty cramped space. When the Web evolved, we couldn't wait
to begin digitizing documents to create the current Virtual
Reading Room, for all the world to access. Good thing too,
as that also became law. Now we continue to expand it as resources
up a chair... and decide where you want to start: Spies?
issues, and events? Or "Unusual
Freedom of Information Act Website |
Department of Justice FOIA Reference | The
FBI Press Room