Guides by Level of Government
To acquire declassified documents not yet available through the avenues listed above, individuals and organizations may utilize the Freedom of Information Act. Passed in 1966, and amended greatly in the years immediately following Watergate, the FOIA :
In order to acquire information under the FOIA, the requester must do the following:
Some agencies require a signed statement or notarized statement attesting that the requester is who s/he claims. It is often helpful to refer to a department or agency’s web site for additional information regarding FOIA requests. Agencies may charge fees for duplicating, searching, and review (these fees can be waived for those unwilling and/or unable to pay fees).
By submitting an FOIA request, one makes a tacit acceptance of willingness to pay minor fees associated with the FOIA request. It is the responsibility of requesters to ask for a partial or full fee waiver. Requesters should also indicate if they are willing to pay additional fees for time spent search for documents and photocopying.
To gain access to declassified documents, the user is advised to know all of the following:
There are times in research when an individual or organization wants to research a specific event, foreign policy issue, or some historical aspect of international relations. In the case of discovery research, the patron may not know exactly what s/he is seeking. The process of obtaining declassified documents may require “bulldog tenacity.” Individuals and organizations are encouraged to start the search early and be persistent. For further information, see the FOIA website and the Department of Justice’s electronic resource, the FOIA Post.
Patrons at the University of Missouri are encouraged to contact the University of Missouri School of Journalism's Freedom of Information Center for assistance with FOIA requests and agency compliance.