ENCINO, CA – It was December of 1996. I was a sophomore in high school, and I was just a couple months into beginning the biggest endeavor of my life… I just did not know it at the time.
I created TheBlackVault.com, what has now become the largest internet archive of government documents in the world. The concept was simple; beginning at the age of fifteen, I began filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and scanning the documents onto the website for the world to see.
The requests went out by the hundreds, and the documents came back by the thousands.
But unbeknownst to me, that December I would file a request to the Defense Technical Information center (DTIC) for a document entitled “Fireball Yields” that would challenge my views on the FOIA.
Now, I’ll be honest. I had no idea what the document was about. One could theorize it was a document about the measurement of fireballs caused by nuclear blasts, but there was really only one way to find out. Wait for the document to arrive.
Although the FOIA stipulates agencies had ten business days to respond to the request (which has now been changed to twenty) it took months before the request was officially acknowledged. But even then, the request would go unanswered and unfulfilled, for more than a decade.
In fact, it was nearly eleven years before this document was finally released. And you know, much of it is illegible. How could a document, that takes about eleven years to arrive, not even be readable? We call it Freedom of Information, but is it really? If you ask me, we should save the tree!
(To see the document, head to: http://www.theblackvault.com/documents/nuclear/Fireball.pdf)
Look at only a few of the events that happened in the world while my request was being processed:
· Bill Clinton had not even BEGAN his second term yet
· George W. Bush had not taken office yet
· George W. Bush nearly completed two full terms in office
· “The events of September 11th” and “9/11” did not mean anything (it sure does now)
· We lost the Shuttle Columbia
Should I go on?
However, I do feel compelled to say that contrary to the problems I did have on this case, I am still a big advocate for the law. I recommend everyone who has an interest in it, to definitely try it. In most cases, the documents do arrive in a reasonable amount of time, and are legible.