There are those who believe that the Freedom of Information Act is the gateway to all knowledge about UFOs. If you have a question, just file a FOIA request and the information will be sent to you. Anything you wish to know, you can learn, if you can find the right agency, form your questions intelligently, and if you have a little patience.
And I say crapola…
Here’s why. In the last century, which of course, means fifteen years ago, I wanted a report that had been issued at the White Sands Proving Ground. I provided the precise name of the document, the name of the author and the date it was published. Their response? They I needed more precise information. I confess I don’t know what more they could have needed other than where the file cabinet in which it was stored was located and in what office on the base.
I bring this up now because in the last year my attempts at FOIA have gone astray. I have, since the report was published in the mid-1990s, attempted to learn more about how the Air Force Roswell reports were ordered. I have asked the Secretary of the Air Force’s office, repeatedly, for all information about this including memos, letters, orders, minutes of meetings, and all the other nonessential waste of paper that you would expect from a government bureaucracy. And I have been given the run around.
First I was sent to the Government Printing Office and their response was a catalog of documents available. Now I knew that the GPO would not have anything I wanted, but I sent a FOIA to them so that I could say that it wasn’t the right place.
Second, I was told that the documents had all been transferred to the Air Force Archives, but they said they had sent them on to the National Archives. NARA said, “No,” they didn’t have them. I returned to the Air Force Archives which gave me the details of the transfer, so it was back to NARA. They said that they did have the records, but they had not been reviewed and that would take a while. Get back to them later…
Which I did. But all they had were the records produced in the investigation including the video tapes made by the Fund for UFO Research, a court martial record of a doctor from 1957 that had no significance to the investigation at all, copies of documents that I and other private researchers had sent them, and nothing that filled my request.
In the last year I have attempted to get these documents again. I have sent four FOIA requests to the Secretary of the Air Force FOIA office and have not received a single reply. I would have thought that at the very least they would have let me know they received the request as the law requires.
The other day, I sent another FOIA request and this time I had to pick a category. Was my request commercial, educational/new or other. I fall into the commercial category, which from the sound of the emails, means they are going to charge me for the service. It seems to suggest they have a new way to stop FOIA. Make it clear it will cost money… and yes, I agreed to pay for the service because it is for a book but the information isn’t all that spectacular.
The point here is that it doesn’t seem that FOIA works as well as it used to. It seems that they can ignore repeated requests, and I really don’t want to pay an attorney two hundred dollars an hour to sue them for a response, only to learn that the information is considered vital to national security which would launch another lawsuit. They have the resources to dance, but we out here do not.
Oh, I get it that lots of people file FOIA over trivia… but then, if the records weren’t hidden away, there would be no need for FOIA. And yes, I understand that some things are a matter of national security, but I’m not sure how that might relate to the Air Force investigations of Roswell since the Air Force said it was a balloon, or how it relates to the radar tracks of a commercial airliner more than two decades ago.
FOIA just doesn’t work the way it used to and that is really all I’m saying.