Black redacted bars with the words For the Record underlined

For the Record: Navigating MuckRock’s FOIA Log Explorer

Search through over a hundred thousand requests for your next FOIA inspiration

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

Last September, FOIAonline, a portal for Freedom of Information Act requests used by dozens of federal agencies, shut down to the dismay of many requesters. The portal, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, allowed the public to make and track Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to over 20 federal agencies.

MuckRock and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) partnered to host a publicly available archive of nearly 34,000 documents captured before FOIAonline was shuttered.

To make data from FOIAonline even more accessible, MuckRock’s Open Source Fellow Sanjin worked with the Internet Archive and researcher Ed Summers to help rescue some of the data from FOIAonline, and now MuckRock has archived information over 160,000 FOIA requests across twenty agencies in our FOIA Log explorer.

Newly added entries in the Explorer include requests for correspondence between former President George W. Bush and the Federal Reserve during the Great Recession to the George W. Presidential Library, and requests to obtain Official Military Personnel Files from Navy Personnel Command.

These archives also include the Environmental Protection Agency with 66,000 requests and Customs and Border Protection with 75,000 requests.

Previously removed Environmental Protection Agency FOIA requests are now available on MuckRock and the Wayback Machine.

This collection joins our existing database of thousands of FOIA examples and ideas, combining requests filed publicly via MuckRock as well as requests pulled from logs provided by agencies.

Almost every federal agency keeps a FOIA log that tracks Freedom of Information Act requests, and requesters can ask for those logs. We’ve gathered, standardized and organized as many of these logs as we could get to make it easier for you to jumpstart your records process.

You can now explore your way through these publicly searchable requests, which also include a link to the archived request on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

A special thank you to Ed Summers, Mark Graham, the Internet Archive team, Archive Team, Freddy Martinez and the Project on Government Oversight for their contributions to this effort, as well as to Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation for its initial support of the FOIA Log Explorer.

The Update

  • New restrictions to accessing governor’s records: On the last day of the legislative session, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill that prohibits non-Louisiana residents from requesting public records from the governor’s office. Passed by the Senate, the bill now heads to Republican Gov. Jeff Landry’s desk for approval, reports Piper Hutchinson in the Louisiana Illuminator
  • New Jersey law limits public access to records: New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy signed a new bill into law that will limit public access to government records, reports Elise Young in the New York Times. The governor stated that the new law “would not encourage public corruption.” But with a less open government, the people of Jersey might not know whether the governor’s statement holds true. 
  • Washington state officials accused of breaking public records law: In Washington, a new lawsuit alleges that state officials may have broken state law by deleting messages “aimed at hindering a McClatchy reporter’s efforts to obtain public records,” reports Shauna Sowersby in The Olympian. Under Washington state law, “removing, altering, mutilating, destroying, concealing, or obliterating public records and documents” is a class C felony. 

FOIA Finds

  • O.J. documents made public: The FBI has released over 475 pages of documents on O.J. Simpson on Friday. The documents “largely focus on the murder investigation into the 1994 stabbing deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman,” reports Michael Rothstein in ESPN. Read the documents on DocumentCloud, uploaded by Chris Keller at the Associated Press. 
  • NRA contracts with Dallas convention center revealed: Northern Texas’ NPR station, KERA, obtained contracts between the National Rifle Association and Dallas' city-owned convention center that revealed that the gun rights group received a discount of almost $482,000 off the full rental price of $931,990 to rent the arena for the NRA’s annual meeting, reports Nathan Collins. Want to request contracts in your area? You can clone a similar request on MuckRock
  • Pipeline problems: The Mountain Valley Pipeline has about 130 potential problems that “required additional analysis” according to a cover letter of a report obtained through an open records request, reports Laurence Hammack at the Roanoke Times. While the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released the cover letter, the agency “withheld an accompanying report that likely included details of how often repairs were made.”