Freedom of Information: A citizen's guide to fighting secret government - Page 4

Local and national organizations that offer a wide range of resources for journalists, citizen activists, and hell-raisers

WikiFOIA helps people understand the FOI Act on a state and federal level by providing a how-to-guide about open records requests, as well information on how to make that request.


The Guardian Web site has extensive information and links concerning international press-freedom issues. For details on journalists under fire, including frontline dispatches and reports from the battle to keep the world safe for journalists, go to For updates, dispatches, and links to national and international FOI groups, go to

The UK FOI Blog provides a glimpse into how FOI issues are dealt with across the pond by listing news and developments on FOI in Great Britain.

Local government resources

The Government Information Center, on the fifth floor of the San Francisco Public Library's Main Branch, stocks public documents published by the city. These include annual reports for committees and departments, minutes and agendas of official meetings, environmental impact reports, and city audits, ordinances, and resolutions. San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., S.F., CA 94102. (415) 557-4500,

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission responds to complaints and holds hearings on possible violations of the city's Sunshine Ordinance. Records, tapes of the commission's meetings, agendas, and minutes can be picked up at the commission's office. 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 4th floor, Oakland, CA 94612. (510) 238-3593,,

The Office of Information and Privacy, U.S. Department of Justice, provides online versions of frequently requested records, opinions, policy statements, and guides to the Freedom of Information Act. The guides include detailed instructions for filing FOIA requests, average response times for different governmental offices, and a wealth of other useful information. The text of the FOIA is available on the office's Web site. 1425 New York Ave., Suite 11050, Washington, D.C. 20530. (202) 514-3642,

Public Access to Court Electronic Records is an online database of court records and decisions. Web access is 8¢ a page, and requires registration through the Web at P.O. Box 780549, San Antonio, TX 78278. 1-800-676-6856,

The San Francisco Ethics Commission monitors and enforces the Sunshine Ordinance and the city's governmental-ethics, campaign-finance, and lobbyist-reporting laws. Individuals can file complaints regarding violations of the Sunshine Ordinance. The commission meets the second Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall, Room 408. 25 Van Ness, Suite 220, S.F., CA 94102. (415) 252-3100,,

The San Francisco Law Library is open to the public, though only government officials, state bar members, and judges can check out items. Main reference library: Mon.-Fri., 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Veterans War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness, Room 400, S.F. (415) 554-6821. Courthouse reference room: Mon.-Fri., 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., 400 McAllister, Room 512, S.F. (415) 551-3647.