It's been 40 years since passage of the mother of all information access laws–the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Given that March 11 marked the start of America's third annual Sunshine Week– a national effort to cast light onto the growing recesses of government secrecy–U.S. News is again providing links so its readers can file requests for federal records under the FOIA and its sister statute, the Privacy Act. Although the government can be slow in getting back to you, the request process itself is pretty straightforward.
Since the original U.S. act in 1966, 68 countries have passed freedom of information laws. But as we noted last year, in too many countries the presumption remains that all records are secret until officials deem otherwise. In contrast, the U.S. legislation, as generally interpreted, presumes that all government records should be public–unless officials can show very good reasons to exempt them, such as for protecting national security or law enforcement sources. If citizens are not satisfied, they can take the government to court and ask a judge to decide.
Here's an online guide to getting what the government's got:
[url=http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/badguys/070313/getting_your_government_files.htm]Getting Your Government Files