Saturday, January 30, 2016

How to write a FOIA request for the State of Oregon

The writing of a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request is fairly straightforward, it just involves a little digging as to who you address it to, and coming up with a succinct request.  Before contacting any entity in Oregon, please read the guide.

Many people with military experience can attest to working for a Commander who states words to the effect of "give me everything you have on [fill in the blank]".  As you know this is insanely wasteful of resources and you rarely get what is wanted, but you eventually get what was asked for with that approach, it is best to parse it down.  Get specific.  Here is an example:

A specific request would be for the arrest reports of the named individuals on the date in question.  You would provide names, location, time period.  I am sure that an arrest report would be a treasure trove of interesting facts that are part of the official record.  Perhaps they will try the Jedi mind trick of "this is an active investigation, you proles can't see it".

Consider this point:  at this time, it is not known to me if any networks or news organizations have requested this information.  If it is not done by a concerned citizen, who will it be done by?  If we arrive at a point in time where citizens have the responses in hand and are waving them at news organizations, we will be at an inflection point.  Will the so-called "professional" journalists pick up that torch?  If not, that will tell you a LOT about the "State of the Union".

Here is a printer-friendly version of the Oregon FOIA.  I suspect that this is valid anywhere BUT the Governor's Office (see public records policy, below).   All you have to do is look up a few places, just type a few words in.  Make a copy for your files, then send it in.  I'd suggest getting a receipt that it was accepted, the USPS is good about that.  [I would NOT suggest using a font like "ransom note".  "Comic Sans" is out, too.]  Upon closer examination of the Oregon Governor's website, it appears that all FOIA requests to the Oregon Governor's Office can only go via the online application- this seems to disenfranchise the internetless and is chilling to the 1st Amendment, but I digress.  In that case, take screen captures (ctrl+prt sc, then "paste" into a program like "Paint") to document your request.

I am working on planning a few requests and will let you know how that goes.  At the very least, it will help shed light on the system as it exists.  There is a potential cost, as the Guv or any other entity involved may collect costs to produce your response.  It appears that they will advise you if the cost will be more than $25.  Do your own due diligence... this is where it becomes a practical matter to pare your request to as singular a question as possible, if just from a financial standpoint.  Here is the fee schedule:

Here is a starter of places to look for offices to contact to submit your Public Records Requests to:

The Portland FBI Office can be reached at, just ask for the FOIA point of contact.

It is my understanding that the decedent was taken to the Deschutes County Medical Examiner's Office, they can be emailed for the FOIA procedures and routing at

It appears that the shooters were the Oregon State Police and not the vaunted Hostage Roasting Team of Waco and Ruby Ridge fame.  You can request various reports of the OSP by going HERE.  The OSP have a pretty good website, although FOIA=Public Records Request.  If you search "FOIA" you may get stymied. Try HERE , and try HERE .

The Harney County District Attorneys' Office is manned by TIMOTHY J. COLAHAN , who was named in the article as being part of the overall investigation.  He may have some respondent records and be willing to help the public gain the truth, perhaps give you some better direction in how to access information in Oregon.  It appears he can be reached at his office at to request what format he needs to receive your FOIA request in so that he can best answer your query.  Again, please be kind to these people, as they are going to be quite busy handling requests and the regular work load. 

Senate Bill 111 (SB 111) is mentioned as a guiding document for the investigation.  Taking a look at that, it does indeed appear to be a document that is intended to support reasonable investigative procedures and regularize them across the state.  It outlines procedures, definitions and so forth.  Good background information as this story develops.

Be polite, please be polite to these people.  You'll get farther.  Don't be the easily dismissed "angry crank".   I am sure that they are under a lot of pressure, both formal and informal.  Do NOT harangue any of them or wax Phillipic.  By being polite with them, you may just help them help you... you never know where you may find a sympathetic sort.

Consider this practice in FOIA to be an exercise of your individual political agency.  Consider the utility of going through this every time a citizen gets deleted. Consider how much volume 10,000 letters takes up.  Yours can be among them... every single time this sort of thing happens.  It matters not if the victim is a white guy in a cowboy hat, or an urbanite.  We can inform the government through our petitions of just how much each person means, as we all have worth.

For bonus points;
Where did these come from, and who funded them??

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