Something to keep in mind is that filing a FOIA request electronically is considered as permission for you to be monitored. In 1974 the FOIA was amended to force greater agency compliance with requests. The General Accounting Office reported in 1991 over 1.9 million requests!
This issue we will look at another type of information request; the request for public records. This works out perfectly timing-wise with one of the cases I'm currently working. Although the particular sighting I'm investigating occurred 20 years ago, I'm sure if anyone made a report it will still be on record. I will take you through my process.
My first stop was to the Morro Bay office of the U.S. Coast Guard. They were very helpful, however they didn't have an office in Morro Bay at the time in question, which was 1994. They did not have an office there until 1998!
The sergeant at the front desk was extremely helpful, and told me that the Harbor Patrol office was right next door, and that they had been there at the time and would probably have the records from back in 1994. I thanked him, and gave him my card, encouraged him to check out the MUFON website, and let him know that it was okay for their office to contact me whenever they had any reports that I would be interested in.
I'd like to say that next I went to Harbor Hut and had a wonderful Calamari steak, but alas, there was more work to do! I ignored the wonderful aromas emanating from the many eateries in the area, and proceeded to the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol office. After I introduced myself, I explained what information I was looking for, and asked them if they could help. They were very nice, and provided my with the form to start my inquiry.
I politely asked them what the charge would be for my request, and to my delight, they told me that there would be no charge. Maybe they just liked that I was polite, or maybe they were intrigued by my inquiry, but it clearly states on the form that there is a .75 cent charge for the first page, and .25 cents for each page thereafter, so be prepared, most requests will cost something! They let me know that they had up to ten days to respond my request, and I thanked them, gave them my card, and again encouraged them to check out our website, and to give out my number or call me if they had reports that I might be interested in. Of course I couldn't resist asking if they knew anything about the sighting in 1967, and I showed them the picture from July 7th. Although they were interested, neither of them knew anything about it...I'll be filing a separate request there next trip besides my FOIA to the other agencies.
To my surprise, and delight, I received word back on my search yesterday. I was really amazed at the quickness in there reply! Since any names are redacted, I am going to include the harbor records, just so you all can see what to expect when you make such a request. Although the information I was specifically looking for (other reports from 25-30 miles out to sea on that date) was not in the logs, there are still other places for me to inquire.
As you can tell from the harbor logs, there was not even anyone on duty during the early morning hours. This tells me that I need to check with the Coast Guard unit that was in charge of the area off the coast of Big Sur at the time.
I hope this issue gave you some insight into the process of making an information request! By the way, I did finally get that Calamari steak...