Does the FBI use the same form denial letter for all denials?
1 answer from Michael Morisy.
If the denial letter says it only searched the central records database, does it mean they only searched that database?
Yes. Often times that’s enough, but sometimes there’s other information that’s not in their central index. You can ask them to search specific field offices, or, as Ryan Shapiro noted ask them to also search other systems:
One of the chief means by which the FBI accomplishes this is to deliberately search for records in such a way that the search routinely fails by design. There are numerous techniques a requestor can use to combat this, but two of the most crucial are: 1) Request a search not only for main file records (this is the FBI’s default search) but also for “cross-reference” records, and 2) Request an “ELSUR” (Electronic Surveillance) search. Despite the FBI’s (flatly dishonest) insistence to the contrary, a huge percentage of records will only be found if the FBI conducts these two additional searches, and the FBI will not conduct these searches unless you explicitly request it does so.
Big hat tip to ShawnMusgrave for pointing that out.