Interns Get Schooled on FOIA at Brown Bag Lunch

July 23rd, 2008

On July 18th, Everett interns from POGO and other organizations had the privilege to learn about filing Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests from Mike Ravnitzky, an expert on FOIA who has filed thousands of requests. Mr. Ravnitzky explained all aspects of the FOIA process, including how to request material, how to handle fees, and how to appeal a denial.

Mr. Ravnitzky also provided the sort of invaluable information that can only be acquired through first-hand experience with FOIA. He provided insight into exactly why some requests may be denied, and what methods are most effective for dealing with certain problems such as astronomical fee estimates. The interns were also introduced to Mandatory Declassification Review, a far less commonly known process for requesting classified information.

In addition to providing technical insight into FOIA, Mr. Ravnitzky gave some interesting perspective on the handling of requests. In spite of the sometimes intimidating and monolithic image government agencies can present, Mr. Ravnitzky pointed out that the success of FOIA requests depends on agency officials who can make or break an agency’s entire FOIA system, and who sometimes even deny requests simply because they are difficult to handle.

— John Cappel
POGO Everett Intern