MuckRock's guide to getting your own FBI file

MuckRock’s guide to getting your own FBI file

The Privacy Act allows you to know if the Bureau’s keeping tabs on your activities

Written by
Edited by JPat Brown

Typically the Federal Bureau of Investigation will only release the files of deceased individuals. One exception to that rule is when an individual is requesting information about themselves.

While requesting your own file is not much different than an ordinary request to the FBI there, there is an added kink in the process.

A self-request falls under the Privacy Act and not the Freedom of Information Act. It requires a special Department of Justice form stating, under penalty of perjury, that you are who you say you are.

Please note: Privacy Act requests should be filed directly with the FBI. Because MuckRock requests are public, our service is not well suited for Privacy Act requests (and our Terms of Service explicitly prohibit them). However, this guide will help you file yours.

The request should state clearly that you are requesting all documents with your name and any aliases in them. It should also provide any additional information that would help FOI/PA officers locate documents about yourself.

For example:

June 21, 2013

Dear FOI/PA officer:

This is a query under the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a).

I hereby request any and all documents, communication and memos relating to myself, John/Jane Doe also know as John/Jane “The Goat” Doe. To aid in the expedition of this request I am providing the following information.

Address: 123 Main St., Americatown, USA 12345.

I was associated with the Goat Liberation Front between 1997 and 2007.

Please find the attached U.S. Department of Justice Certification of Identity Form DOJ-361 certifying my identity under penalty of perjury.


Jane Doe

You can then mail, fax, or e-mail this letter to the following:

Federal Bureau of Investigation Attn: FOI/PA Request Record/Information Dissemination Section 170 Marcel Drive Winchester, VA 22602-4843 Fax: (540) 868-4391/4997

Or, as of 2017, you can try their eFOIA portal.

If you’re under an active investigation of the FBI, that material is typically exempted, but otherwise this is a simple way to see if the Bureau has been snooping on you.

MuckRock discourages the use of its services for Privacy Act requests to protect against releasing sensitive personal information.

For more detailed information about how to best request information from the FBI and how the Bureau handles requests visit their FOIA information page.

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