A&A: Need Assistance Using FOIA To Request My FISA File

Q: Do you offer services for FOIA requests specifically at the FISA Court? This would be for my personal file. If not, can you perhaps recommend an attorney or organization who is willing to help?

A: While we are unable to provide specific legal advice or representation through this hotline service, we can provide some general background information on the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) that you might find helpful.  

FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552, is a federal open records act that provides a mechanism to gain access to public records.  FOIA requires that a government agency produce existing records that are not otherwise exempt.  5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2).  Under FOIA, there are nine categories of documents that are exempt from disclosure.  5 U.S.C. § 552(b).  By statute, the agency is required to grant or deny a FOIA request within 20 working days, except “in unusual circumstances,” in which case the agency can extend the deadline by notifying the requestor.  5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6).  If an agency denies an individual’s FOIA request, it must state the reason for the denial, including identifying and stating how claimed exemptions apply to the records requested, and give the individual an opportunity to appeal the decision.  5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6).   

Based on your inquiry, it appears that you are interested in requesting records from the FISA Court, although it is not clear what types of records you are seeking.  If you are seeking records related to an opinion, order, or decision of the Court, it looks like you will need to make a motion with the Court pursuant to Rule 62 of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Rules of Procedure, which are available here.  If you are seeking access to some other type of record, it might be that you need to submit a FOIA Request to the Department of Justice.  Information related to making a FOIA Request to DOJ can be found here.  

Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to provide you with an in-depth analysis or representation through this Hotline. 

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries.  In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.  No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.

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