... because if you don't ask, you'll never know ...
Why are you asking me for my name, address, etc. and what do you with the data?
We are asking you the questions about your name, address, etc. simply so that we can create a letter that you can print and send to the FBI. We do not share this information with anyone. In fact, we don't even store it on disk -- the info is gone from our servers as soon as you've printed your letter.
What if I still don't trust you with my personal data?
No problem. Just go to the FBI FOIA web site and work directly with the FBI. We flatter ourselves to think that our site is a little easier to use and may be more likely to get you the records you seek, but hey, we've been there, we understand if you don't trust us.
What is "proof of death"?
The FBI will only release files on dead people*. Because of this, you will need to include with your request a document proving that the person whose files you are seeking is actually dead. This proof can take several forms, and you only need one:
* Or yourself, or living people from whom you can get a notarized statement saying that you have permission to see their files ... but we're assuming that's not the case here.
How do I use the Social Security Death Index to provide proof of death?
Go to this link: Social Security Death Index
Enter the name of the person you're interested in and press "submit."
Print out the results and circle the correct person. Send this to the FBI along with the request letter that you generated here.
If your search returns too many entries, go to "advanced search" and use fields such as date of birth, date of death, last residence state, location, or Social Security Number to narrow the results. Unless you are positive you have the record for the correct person, don't use the Death Index as proof of death. Once you do the search and retrieve the SSN, you can put in the SSN to pull up only one name in a result for printing. Please note that the SSDI is always a couple of months behind and that very recent deaths may not have been entered in the system yet.
What's up with this "$30 fee" business? Are you guys getting rich off this?
First, no, we're not getting rich. This site is free, and you never, ever have to pay us.
Second, the FBI is allowed by law to charge reasonable fees for Freedom of Information Act requests. The FBI gives you the first 100 pages of any request for free. Files longer than 100 pages are charged at ten cents per page. In practice, if the file is between 100 and 180 pages the FBI tends not to charge because it costs them more to bill you and collect the money from you than it does to just send you the copies and be done with it. But because of all this, your request letter must state some maximum amount you're willing to pay -- usually $30. If your request costs more than this, the FBI will contact you for permission before proceeding on your request. Remember, do not send money with your request: the FBI will bill you if necessary.
Just who are you guys, anyway, and why are you doing this?
We're ordinary citizens, just like yourself. We believe in freedom of information (after all, government information belongs to we the people, last we checked), and we thought this site was a nice way to make that information more available and maybe help you get some interesting history about your family while we're at it.
But isn't this an invasion of privacy?
No. Remember, we're only talking here about getting FBI files for people who are no longer living. In fact, you can see from an old memo what former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover might have thought about this site.
How can I contact you?
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