Session 11

Freedom of Information: from the Pentagon Papers to Wikileaks and Beyond

In class:

  • Draft your own FOIA request. (1 hour)
  • Review draft requests. (10 min)
  • From this review, and from the earlier discussion, what would be considerations in drafting of a request, and thinking through the process? [10 min]
  • Discuss with a partner what kind of information you want that the government (state or federal) might have. (15 min)
  • Draft a very brief. (5 min)
    • What categories of information would be of interest?
    • How does (or might) the government keep the information?
    • Do you actually want the information? Do you expect to be provided the information? (In some cases, for instance, you may not expect to get the information but you may want to prove a point or advance an issue by making the request, and, for instance, doing advocacy around the request, or around the denial of access to information.)
    • Draft a FOI request based on the type of information you would like to get [10 min]. (There are few rules regarding format for information requests from most government entities. They can be more simple or complex depending on the kinds of information you are seeking—but simplicity is better; really difficult requests can, in some cases, be turned down). [10 min]
    • Share a copy of the request. If you want to submit online with Muckrock or FOIA Online. If you want to mail these, print it out now and we'll put these in the mail tomorrow.
    • What information do you want to keep track of regarding these requests?
    • Are you comfortable sharing any results publicly?
    • Are you willing to follow up on the request? Did you draft a request that requires (or suggests) substantial follow-up?
    • Share with the class how far you got - and any lessons learned. [10 min]

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