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Government Information

An overview of government resources available to you as a Westminster student. Celebrate Freedom of Information Day on March 16th.

Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It's a way for citizens to keep a check on the government. These can be very powerful in finding information that the government may be withholding but is also not an absolute right. There are considerations for things like national security. 

You can submit your own FOIA request! FOIA.gov 

How to Make A FOIA Request

So, you've done all your research and the information you want isn't available anywhere.

It's time to file an FOIA Request. 

  1. Determine what you want to know, be as specific as possible.
  2. Determine who/where the information is held.
  3. Contact their FOIA department. Here is a directory of all the FOIA offices. 
  4. From there, each agency has its own process for filing an FOIA request, but it usually involves a letter detailing the information you are looking for and why.

Costs

If you are requesting the information for educational or noncommercial purposes, you should make that clear. You also need to indicate how the requested information will be beneficial and how/if it will be disseminated (for example, at URAC). To expedite the process, you should attach proof of your student/faculty status. You can also request they consult you on the anticipated costs and determine alternatives to reduce the cost. 

Check out this In-Depth Guide from Public Citizen walking you through the FOIA request process.

Pennsylvania State Records

Pennsylvania agencies are similar to federal agencies. Each agency has its own method and is requested through the agency's Office of Open Records.

Find an Office of Open Records. These requests fall under the Right to Know Law. This includes any state or local government bodies.

PA Office of Open Records - The Office of Open Records oversees the Right to Know Law and the Sunshine Act.