The FOIA request must be in writing and sent to the Secret Service Disclosure Central Processing Unit. Letters requesting records under the FOIA can be short and simple.
Secret Service has prepared a document at Appendix A - "How to Write Your Freedom of Information Act Request" that describes the request process in greater detail. A requester who follows the Secret Service’s specific procedures may receive a faster response.
There are four basic elements to a FOIA request letter:
- The letter should state that the request is being made under the Freedom of Information Act.
- The letter should identify the records that are being sought as specifically as possible.
- The name and address of the requester must be included. If the request involves the personnel records of an individual, the requester must also include a sworn or notarized statement swearing to or affirming their identity. In this case, the authority of the requester to receive such records must be established.
- The requester should make a firm commitment to pay any fees which may apply or request a fee waiver.
Several optional items may be included in a FOIA request:
- The requestor's telephone number which allows the Secret Service employee processing a request to speak with the requester, if necessary.
- A limitation amount for the maximum fees the requester is willing to pay is commonly included. The requester will be notified in advance if the charges will exceed the specified amount, and may withdraw or revise their request. This may also avoid unnecessary delays and the need for additional correspondence with the requester.
- A request for a waiver or a reduction of fees will be considered if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. Fee waiver decisions are separate and distinct from decisions about the amount of fees that a requester can be charged.
- If the requester desires the responsive information in a particular format, then specification of the form or format which the requested material is sought is an important consideration. For example, information maintained by Secret Service in an electronic form can be provided in that same or a similar form, such as on a CD-ROM, DVD, or USB. FOIA requires agencies to help requesters by providing information in the form requested, including requests for electronic records, if the Secret Service can readily reproduce it in that form. For more information see subsection (a)(3)(B) of the FOIA.
- A request for expedited processing can be granted if the requester shows a "compelling need" for a speedy response. The FOIA regulations authorize expedited processing where a requester demonstrates a "compelling need'' for quick response. A "compelling need'' warranting faster FOIA processing exists in three categories of circumstances.
- That the failure to obtain the records within an expedited deadline could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to an individual's life or physical safety. A threat to an individual's life or physical safety qualifying for expedited access should be imminent. A reasonable person should be able to appreciate that a delay in obtaining the requested information poses such a threat.
- A request by someone "primarily engaged in disseminating information'' and "a matter of current exigency to the American public.'' The standard of "primarily engaged'' requires that information dissemination be the main activity of the requester, although it need not be his or her sole occupation. A requester who only incidentally engages in information dissemination, besides other activities, would not satisfy this requirement.
- The loss of substantial due process rights. For more information see section (c)(6)(A)-(C) of the FOIA. The standard of "current exigency'' requires that a reasonable person would conclude that the consequences of delaying a response to a FOIA request would compromise a significant recognized interest to and throughout the American general public. The public's right to know about government activity generally, although a significant and important value, would not by itself be sufficient to satisfy this standard.
Secret Service may determine other circumstances, as prescribed by regulation, which would qualify a FOIA request for expedited processing, although the specified categories for compelling need are intended to be narrowly applied.
The requester must also certify that the statement of compelling need is true and correct to the best of his or her knowledge and belief.
A requester should keep a copy of the request letter and related correspondence until the request has been completely resolved.
Your name or your company's name
Your address or your company's address
Your phone number (optional)
For Secret Service policy and procedure agency records send request to:
Dear Disclosure Manager:
This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act.
I request that a copy of the following documents (identify the documents or information as specifically as possible) be provided to me. I do not wish to inspect the documents first. In order to determine my status for the applicability of fees, you should know that I am (insert a suitable description of the requester and the purpose of the request).
[Sample requester descriptions (please choose only one if applicable):
A Media Requester: a representative of the news media affiliated with the XXXX newspaper (magazine, television station, etc.), and this request is made as part of newsgathering and not for a commercial use.
An Educational Institution Requester or a Non-Commercial Scientific Institution Requester affiliated with an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, and this request is made for a scholarly or scientific purpose and not for a commercial use.
A Commercial-Use Requester affiliated with a private corporation, seeking information for use in the company's business.
An “Other” Requester seeking information for personal or non-commercial use.]
As proof of identity I am including a photocopy of my driver’s license, notarized declaration, sworn statement, etc. (See “Establishing Proof of Identity and Right to Access”)
I am willing to pay fees for this request up to a maximum of $XX. If you estimate that the fees will exceed this limit, please inform me first.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
U.S. Secret Service FOIA Office
245 Murray Lane Building T-5
Washington, D.C. 20223