FOIA Lawsuit: CIA Press Office Emails (Updated)

The notion that CIA spokespersons can selectively disclose information to select journalists for publication - and then turn around and claim that very same information would damage a national interest - is frankly bizarre. The result is that the CIA pushes out reporting that appears to come from agency "sources" rather than official channels, with no fingerprints left behind.

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Daniel NovackFOIA, CIAComment
FOIA Lawsuit: The Scientology Files

Emma Best, an independent journalist who specializes in FOIA, filed an ambitious FOIA request seeking the FBI's Scientology file. Unbelievably (or predictably, by FBI standards), she was told by the FBI's FOIA office that the subject of her request was not specific enough, as though the agency is not familiar with the Church of Scientology.

When Best appealed administratively, she was denied on "modified" grounds; specifically, that the request would take too long to process. Cue trombone.

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Drafting a Quality FOIA Request

In my experience, the more care you put into drafting your FOIA, the more you will get out of it. Spending 30 minutes instead of 5 might give you a great shot at teeing your FOIA up to become a winnable case. That brings the prospect of winning legal fees - a critical factor in retaining an attorney to fight it on your behalf.

Here are a few tips of my tips for drafting a quality FOIA request.

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Daniel NovackFOIA, TIPSComment
Representation: Independent Journalist Norman Oder

I recently had the pleasure of representing Norman Oder, an independent journalist who has written prolifically about the controversial Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park project in Brooklyn (his work can be found at In connection with his research for his coverage and an upcoming book, Norman submitted a FOIL request (the New York state equivalent of FOIA) to Baruch College of the City University of New York. 

Norman's request was not denied in the traditional sense - just simply ignored.

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Daniel NovackFOILComment

I plan to use this space to talk about my ongoing projects and share any insights I learn. I encourage you to share any questions, ideas, or idle musings in the comments section below my posts. Or email me at!

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Daniel NovackComment