I'd like to add to Todd's account that if you have good reason to
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think there might be a FBI etc. file, and if you get a response to
your inquiry that no records were found, you have the right to appeal.
A few years ago, I'd sent in an FBI FOIA request for a relative of
mine. It was common family knowledge that he was a "Communist", and
that the FBI watched him, and restricted his movements.
My request came back "no file found", as did the appeal. Then last
year, I sent in a new request (not mentioning the first request at
all), and this time received almost 30 pages. Nothing
earth-shattering or genealogically significant, but very interesting
to know. A a matter of fact, there was nothing at all to merit
suspicion, other than he'd once signed a pro-communist petition, and
the furrier's union he was a member of was known to have Communist
backing. Ah, the days of Hoover and McCarthy
At 08:49 AM 3/2/2006, Todd Brody wrote:
On a lark, I decided to send a FOIA ("Freedom of Information Act")
request to the FBI and CIA to see if they had any files on my
grandfather. The letter took about thirty minutes to write (there
are sample FOIA requests on the websites of both agencies) and the
total cost of the request was the price of a stamp.
Within a week I received my first letters >from the CIA and FBI
telling me that they were reviewing the request and asking for
additional information. (My wife who saw the mail first said to me
"oh my god Todd, what are you doing now!" -- she isn't as
interested in family history as I am.
A few weeks ago a received a letter >from the CIA saying that they
had no files on my grandfather. So I figured that this wasn't going
to lead anywhere. That's okay, I didn't really expect anything.
Yesterday, I got a big envelope >from the FBI, which contained his
whole case file, including interviews with my grandfather (which
discuss in detail his trips to the Soviet Union) and evaluations as
to whether he might be able to serve as a "potential security
informant" or "double agent." The file reads like a John Le Carre
novel. Ultimately, the FBI decided that he would not be a good spy
because he didn't speak enough Russian and was only in the Soviet
Union for 2-3 weeks per year.
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