"What is the Freedom of Information Act? How does a citizen go about the proper use of FOIPA?"
The Freedom of Information Act is available to all citizens of the United States, without exception.
Most people, unless effected by or involved with some sort of federal agency or political effort, are completely unaware of itís existence.
Because there is so much information online dealing with FOIPA law, I will simply list here several links that should get you started in your research.
Everything you might need in researching FOIPA and making your own requests can be found below.
Because there are a thousand and one loop holes from which agencies can pick to delay or otherwise prevent having to provide requested data, those wishing to make FOIPA requests should be sure to draft appropriately formatted and worded request documents.
And remember ...
As a rule, draft every document as though you eventually intend to be in a court room to defend it.
I have reviewed much information online and have been through quite a few direct correspondences with those in charge of information dissemination at both the FBI and the Deptartment of Justice, and so I have decided to keep a link here making available the current request document that I use on a bi-annual basis. This document has been tailored from both my own research online as well as specific requests that I have had from the above mentioned agencies for inclusion of certain data.
This template/model is not perfect and nor is it necessarily appropriate for all individuals, but legally, I think it's function is sound. The file is in .rtf (rich text) format and should be readable to most platforms.
FOIPA Request Example
A Citizen's Guide On Using The Freedom Of Information Act
An excellent overview of how to employ FOIPA to make requests to federal agencies; quite extensive in it's content.
The First Amendment Center
A good place to start for a complete overview of how to employ the FOIPA process to make your own requests to federal agencies
Justice Department Guide to the Freedom of Information Act
Justice Department page on FOIPA including much good information and specifics on applicable exemptions.
FBIís FOIPA Information Page
Contains some helpful information regarding requests made to the FBI; (as a rule of thumb, never fax your FOIPA request, even if they say you can)
Because I mention so often the exemptions to FOIPA law which allow federal agencies to legally deny the provision of requested documents, I have decided to go ahead and list the exemptions here.
According to conversations I've had and from what I've been able to deduce on my own regarding my circumstances, the likely exemption being claimed by the FBI is Exemption (b)(7)(A), which says, simply, if the FBI feels provision of files would interfere with them bringing charges against someone, then they can certainly withhold the files.
In my case, not only would provision of my file(s) prevent charges from being filed, it would as well prove I'm not schizo, while simulteaneiously casting all other claims I might have made in a much more believable light (covert druggings, gang stalking, etc.)
The exemptions are as follows:
Exemption (b)(1) protects from disclosure national security information concerning the national defense or foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified in accordance with Executive Order 12958.
Exemption (b)(2) exempts from mandatory disclosure records "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency."
Exemption (b)(3) covers information "specifically exempted from disclosure by statute."
Exemption (b)(4) protects "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential."
Exemption (b)(5) protects "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party...in litigation with the agency."
Exemption (b)(6) permits the government to withhold all information about individuals in "personnel and medical files and similar files" when the disclosure of such information "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
Exemption (b)(7)(A) authorizes the withholding of "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that production of such law enforcement records or information...could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings."
Exemption (b)(7)(B) protects "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes (the disclosure of which) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.
Exemption (b)(7)(C) provides protection for personal information in law enforcement records the disclosure of which "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
Exemption (b)(7)(D) provides protection for "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes which could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source and information furnished by a confidential source."
Exemption (b)(7)(E) provides protection to all law enforcement information which "would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcements investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law."
Exemption (b)(7)(F) permits the withholding of information necessary to protect the physical safety of "any individual" when disclosure of information about him "could reasonably be expected to endanger his life or physical safety."
Exemption (b)(8) protects matter that are "contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions."
Exemption (b)(9) protects "geological and geophysical information an data, including maps, concerning wells."
The (c)(1) exclusion authorizes federal law enforcement agencies, under specified circumstances, to shield the very existence of records of ongoing investigations or proceedings by excluding them entirely from the FOIA's reach.
The (c)(2) exclusion provides that "whenever informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency under an informant's name or personal identifier are requested by a third party, the agency may treat the records as not subject to the requirements of the FOIA unless the informant's status has been officially confirmed.
The (c)(3) exclusion pertains only to certain law enforcement records that are maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.