My FOIA request will outlive me

My FOIA request will outlive me

Good news is, we found Frank Wilkinson’s FBI file. Bad news is, you probably won’t get a chance to read it.

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

Back in January, I wrote about the curious case of activist Frank Wilkinson’s 132,000 page Federal Bureau of Investigation file, which had appeared to have gone missing. The FBI claimed that the records were in the possession of the National Archives and Records Administration, while NARA told me that as far as they could tell, the file had never left the Bureau.

A month later, I received another email from NARA. In response to another request for Wilkinson’s file from Defending Rights and Dissent, successor to the organization originally founded by Wilkinson, the archivist working on my request had spent a bit more time searching and had located not just the 132,000 pages, but another 500 pages of previously unreleased material! Great news!

Unfortunately, there was a catch. While NARA could start processing those 500 pages and get them to me in roughly two years - which in terms of federal FOIA processing is light speed - the larger file was so large, it would require me getting bumped to a second tier of processing. And second tier of processing has a waiting list of around six years - not ideal, but not unheard of - and is capped at releasing 1,000 pages a year.

Well, that’s not so ba- wait. Yikes.

After a bit of back of the napkin math, I wrote back, asking to clarify 1) why the processing was necessary at all if the records had been previously released, and 2) if my back of the napkin math was correct and this process would take approximately 130 years.

NARA wrote back and helpfully clarified that 1) the file in NARA’s possession is the original, unredacted copy, as opposed to what had been previously released by the FBI, and 2) more like 132, but yeah, “quite about.”

At this point, I have two options. I can either limit my request to the 500 pages, and wait two years for records I don’t want, or I can ask for the whole thing, and wait 138 years (adding in the six I’ll spend in queue) for the records I wanted to re-release in the first place, with the added caveat that I will likely be very dead.

As you can probably guess from the title of this piece, I went with the latter.

It’s admittedly pretty liberating, knowing that there’s something that will last long after I’m gone.

My first installment is estimated to come in around 2025, so I’ve got plenty of time to start figuring out logistics, like how I’m going to pass this request on to my next of kin. But who knows? Maybe the country will collapse. Maybe Futurama technology will come to pass and I’ll be a head in a jar. Or maybe, just maybe, NARA, and FOIA in general, might get a slice of that $600+ billion military budget and they’ll be able to hire a few more people.

Nah, that’s ridiculous. Here’s hoping for head in a jar.

You can follow the request here

Image via Wikimedia Commons