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freedom of information
November 2, 2007 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Do you have an FBI file? Or do your grandpa and grandma? "Find out now by ordering a copy of their FBI files and learn a bit more about your family history. Best of all, it's free! (Well, except for the cost of a postage stamp.)" This web site helps you generate the letters you need to send to the FBI to get a copy of your own FBI file. While we're at it, we can generate request letters to some other Federal agencies besides the FBI that you may be interested in (or who may have been interested in you!).

FAQ page.

Get Grandpa’s FBI file because if you never ask, you’ll never know. Did Grandpa Joe run a gambling ring? Did Aunt Mary ever lead an antiwar protest? Did Cousin Gary smuggle booze during prohibition?...

What if I still don't trust you with my personal data? No problem. Just go to the FBI FOIA web site and work directly with the FBI. We flatter ourselves to think that our site is a little easier to use and may be more likely to get you the records you seek, but hey, we've been there, we understand if you don't trust us.

If you want to find out the Social Security number of a deceased person, sometimes it's easy to find by going to RootsWeb and in the Search Roots Web box on the left, type the name of the person, press enter.

From the Project of Government Oversight page.

The FBI also has a famous persons files page and check out the histories of Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, among others.


Previously
on the blue, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the green.
posted by nickyskye (30 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Will requesting my file cause them to start a file on me if I don't already have one?
posted by Area Control at 6:08 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oooh, neat. Is there anything comparable for Canadians? We've got FOIP too, it should be possible.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:09 AM on November 2, 2007


Area Control, that's the first question on the FAQ page.
posted by nickyskye at 6:14 AM on November 2, 2007


Thanks for another great post.
posted by grouse at 6:17 AM on November 2, 2007


Requesting a copy of your own records via the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act is perfectly legal, and there is no reason to believe that the FBI would start a file on you for such a request.

Leading an anti-war protest is perfectly legal too, as is being a famous scientist and fighting for civil rights.
posted by DU at 6:22 AM on November 2, 2007 [8 favorites]


I looked up the Privacy Act declarations of the FBI once and they explicitly said that people who have requested their FBI file was a category of information that might lead to an FBI file. Can't be bothered to find it again right now though.
posted by grouse at 6:53 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ordered mine once.

Response I got was essentially

"not a word on ya, sorry kid."

I was rather disappointed in myself at that.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:56 AM on November 2, 2007


FOIA is mostly a joke, anyway. You have the right to access any file they might have on you .... provided that your file hasn't been marked "Sooper Sekrit" by some random desk jockey. If thats the case, they don't have to tell you anything.

Also, yeah, requesting an FOIA search is basically asking for it. From their point of view, any true law-abiding citizen wouldn't bother to ask if they have a file. Do you have something to hide, citizen?!?
posted by Avenger at 7:10 AM on November 2, 2007


I requested my FBI file a couple of years ago. After about a year, I finally got a letter back that said something to the effect of "Sorry, because of backlog we have been unable to get to your request. In order to help us speed things up, please tell us of any major crimes that you may have committed so that we can find your file more quickly."
posted by papakwanz at 7:39 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Uh, if I were the fella whose home address is currently published at the top of this thread I'd be might, mighty unhappy, even if the info is easily accessible via WHOIS.

I'm flagging for review on the principle the data actually belongs to him and while he's given WHOIS permission to publish it, I'm guessing downstream republications like this are not included in the scope of that permission.
posted by mwhybark at 8:07 AM on November 2, 2007


Oh, and interesting post, nickyskye. Sorry for focusing on the critique. Keep up the good work.
posted by mwhybark at 8:09 AM on November 2, 2007


Thanks for posting this!
posted by nevafeva at 8:11 AM on November 2, 2007


If requesting your FBI file starts a dossier on you (beyond a notation that you requested your FBI file) then it would be easy to attack the FBI's signal to noise ratio. A concerted effort could easily swamp their intelligence gathering efforts with noise. For that reason I do not believe that the FBI will bother starting an FBI file just because you requested your FBI file.
posted by substrate at 8:12 AM on November 2, 2007


I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed when they find out they dont have a file and being the president of the Ron Paul club at school and owning a Che Guerra t-shirt aren't the high-crimes they thought the 'man' would be interested in.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:13 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Che Guerra is burning in Hell!
posted by trondant at 8:18 AM on November 2, 2007


President of the Ron Paul club and owning a Che Guevara t-shirt?

One or both of these men is rolling in his grave.
posted by DU at 8:23 AM on November 2, 2007


I've wondered if I have an FBI file on me ever since I passed out during a tour of the DC office back in '94. Perhaps this is my chance to find out.
posted by Lucinda at 8:57 AM on November 2, 2007


One or both of these men is rolling in his grave.

I bet it's the dead one. Right?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Interesting post! Cool idea!

I have to admit that avenger has a point:

You have the right to access any file they might have on you .... provided that your file hasn't been marked "Sooper Sekrit" by some random desk jockey. If thats the case, they don't have to tell you anything.

Looking at these exemptions to FOIA, particularly "Investigatory Records Compiled for Law Enforcement Purposes," I'm surprised anyone gets anything back. But it's worth a try.
posted by salvia at 9:49 AM on November 2, 2007


I bet it's the dead one. Right?

Have you ever actually seen Ron Paul?
posted by psmealey at 9:59 AM on November 2, 2007


One or both of these men is rolling in his grave.

Shame it isn't Ron Paul.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:05 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


There had always been rumors swirling in my family that my Sicilian grandfather may have been involved in gambling and/or organized crime. I guess this is my chance to find out...
posted by slogger at 10:05 AM on November 2, 2007


Vote Zombie Ron Paul! Hope for America's bbrrraaaiiiinnnnnss.
posted by stet at 11:07 AM on November 2, 2007


I'm certain there are all manner of government files on me.

I don't really want to know what's in them.

God bless America.
posted by zennie at 2:38 PM on November 2, 2007


My brother, a secret service agent, assured me that I probably do have a pretty thick one.... must have something to do with that six months that I sent dinner invitations to George Bush.

Every single day. You know, just to see if he would show up. 'Cause he's a man of the people, and all.

Until I got the generic "stop, damn you" letter from the White House.

Or maybe because of a few other incidents.
posted by bradth27 at 3:47 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, I know I have a file.
posted by hexatron at 4:03 PM on November 2, 2007


[removed whois information from the FPP, please don't do that here. Carry on.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:24 PM on November 2, 2007


Hi jessamyn, just letting you know I got the WHOIS from the DIGG page about this GetGrandpa'sFBIFile.
posted by nickyskye at 9:12 PM on November 2, 2007


must have something to do with that six months that I sent dinner invitations to George Bush.

True story, the Secret Service came to visit my dad back when he was in college, long before I was born. Early one morning, he heard:

*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*

"Yeah, what, man?" He opens the door bleary-eyed to see two men standing there in suits.

"Are you Mr. salvia's-dad?"

"Uh, yes?"

"Did you write this letter?" one asks, shoving a handwritten note in the face of my nineteen-year-old father.

"Uh, yes?"

"Here you say, 'Dear President Nixon, What's happening in Vietnam is terrible, how can you let it go on? It is not nice to drop bombs on people's houses. How would you like it if someone dropped a bomb on your house?'"

"Yes...?"

"Are you planning to drop a bomb on the President's house?"

"What?? No! I was just saying--"

"Okay, then. We suggest you not write letters like this in the future."

And that was it.
posted by salvia at 12:24 PM on November 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was involved in an event that included then president Bill Clinton, so I know I had a background check done, but does that lead to an FBI file?

and why do I think it is kinda cool to have an FBi file?
posted by Julnyes at 3:40 PM on November 3, 2007


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