Friday FOIA Fun

While I wait (and wait… and wait…) on certain government bodies to produce records they’ve promised me, this week’s semi-regular installment of Friday FOIA Fun will take a look at a pair of items recently made public by other fine folks using the FOIA.

The first is a newly-released FBI report on the use of “pretexts” and cover techniques for acquiring information in investigations. Dating from 1956 – pretty much the height of the Red Scare, and a period when the Bureau was heavily involved in vetting the “loyalty” of folks like you and I – the most striking thing about the report, to me, is how often the telephone was, and presumably still is, used for acquiring information under a phony pretext. Since this often involves pretending to be a salesman, telemarketer, or similar sort of guise, you have to wonder how the increasing popularity of cellphones – which it generally isn’t legal, in the U.S., to call for “commercial” reasons – over land lines is affecting the usefulness of this kind of technique…

That report is brought to you by the kind, anonymous fellow who runs Government Attic. Also from an anonymous source – the same one, I suspect – is this site, a searchable index to most records in the Air Force Historical Research Agency. In theory, it’s pretty darn cool – and useful; The AFHRA index was made public years ago, by the long-defunct Memory Hole website – but the files at that site are corrupted, and while they’re still useful, their full potential was never able to be completely realized. Happily, I am told that the Air Force History Index site does not use the Memory Hole files, but an independently-supplied copy of the index free from errors. This is excellent news for folks interested in military aviation history.

(Edited, 23 May: I had previously expressed concern that the AFHI website was using or based on the flawed Memory Hole files, whose flaws were never widely publicized. Having been in contact with someone from the site, I’ve been assured that this is not the case, and that the new site’s database is indeed accurate. So yay, and kudos for the men and/or women behind the Air Force History Index for making this important resource available to the public.)

Published in: Geekiness, General, History, Security | on May 23rd, 2008| Comments Off on Friday FOIA Fun

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