Alfred is one day contacted by a shopkeeper he befriended, who warned him that an FBI agent had visited his place of work inquiring about his presentation, behaviour etc. He is shortly then also called by the owner of another business he had transacted with who is uncharacteristically and uncannily friendly, seemingly trying to befriend Alfred as a means of fishing private information out of him.

Alfred does a bit of research, finds that an agent of this name actually does work for the FBI, though works on secondment to another organisation, and files both a FOIA request and a Privacy Act request to the FBI to find out what this was all about. They get rejected on grounds of statutorily provided unspecified exemptions.

Alfred waits some months, then calls up the office switchboard of the organisation that this agent is apparently seconded to, and asks to speak with them, which he does. This agent acts giggly and squeamish, and is apparently pleased to hear from Alfred, and to hear that he is seemingly alive and well, yet evasively gives unconvincingly contradictory explanations for what all of the prowling in the prior year had been about, one time remarking that “keep in mind, I’m not going to be able to tell you everything about this,” at another remarks “well yes, but that was a really long time ago,” but in any event constantly changing the subject with quips to the effect that “as long as you’re safe and okay, that is the important thing.”

Alfred remains as puzzled as he does concerned, and would like to get to the bottom of this. Is there any way he can gain insight as to what all of this snooping was driven by?

  • What is the other agency? What jurisdiction is all this happening in?
    – bdb484
    Nov 23, 2023 at 16:14
  • @bdb484 USA, but do you mean which state? If so then Michigan. And the other agency was a an assorted amalgamation/nexus of various different organisations that seem to be cooperating with each other for the purpose of DHS anti terrorism intelligence sharing trainings and “fusion centers” as well as a local state university campus police department.
    – Alfred
    Nov 23, 2023 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


Is there any way he can gain insight as to what all of this snooping was driven by?

No. Active law enforcement investigations, especially undercover operations, are exempt from FOIA requests until many years after they are closed (maybe 50+ years). Exemptions are just running out for investigations in the late 1960s right now.

  • Does it matter whether the subject matter of the investigation was a welfare check, rather than criminal in nature? And what schedules would determine the exemption period more specifically than “maybe 50+ years”?
    – Alfred
    Nov 23, 2023 at 22:59
  • And what is the definition of an undercover operation?
    – Alfred
    Nov 23, 2023 at 22:59
  • And it seems like that doesn’t make the ultimate answer “no,” but instead “yes, by waiting X years/decades and then resubmitting the request.”
    – Alfred
    Nov 23, 2023 at 23:04

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