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Reporting Tips

Anonymity and Confidentiality 

The only way to remain anonymous is not to tell us who you are.  We don’t control anonymity, you do.  If you call and tell me that your name is Sam Smith, but you want to be anonymous, unfortunately it’s too late.  This is a law-enforcement office:  if you give us your name, then your name will go in the case file.  You can always request confidentiality, but we will have your name.  If you want to preserve your anonymity, please do not provide your name. 

After Your Report 

We are a law-enforcement unit.  The people who report matters to our Office are informants, not clients.  Please be aware we do not explain our investigative decisions, activities, or policies, we do not provide case updates, and we do not provide final reports. 

Ours is a small office, and there is a process for intake, review, determination, and so forth.  Please have a reasonable expectation with respect to response time – it is unlikely that action from our Office will follow immediately on your report. 

The Telephone Hotline 

The telephone Hotline can connect either with a live person, or with a VoiceMail box.  Please be prepared to communicate your concerns in both circumstances. 

When you call the hotline, be ready to leave useful information if you get the VoiceMail, and don’t just ask us to call you back without telling us what the issue is.  You only get thirty seconds or so, so please be prepared to focus on the substance of the issue, and to provide your name and telephone number if you are not seeking anonymity.   

When calling and, especially when you’re leaving a VoiceMail message, please be aware that we often have problems hearing what you’re saying.  Please speak loudly, steadily, and slowly directly into the telephone without noise in the background.  If you’re upset, consider waiting a day before contacting us, to give yourself time to be in a position to discuss the matter without emotions.  Finally, please don’t put telephone calls on speakerphone. 

Requesting a Return Contact 

If  you want us to contact you back, be sure to actually provide your name and contact information.  Caller ID and the e-mail “reply” function do not work.   

Please be aware we are a law enforcement office, and because of this our telephone number will always be blocked.  Our Office will make two or three attempts to honor a caller’s request to be called back, but if that caller never picks-up or otherwise responds, then we will evaluate the report with only the information that we have, which may result in no action being taken.  If the caller’s telephone system doesn’t allow incoming telephone calls from blocked telephone numbers, then we can’t reach that caller. 

Elements to Avoid 

Please avoid repetition and circular conversations, e.g., caller reports that someone is stealing his mail, hotline operator explains that we’re not connected with the U.S. Postal Service and can’t help with anything related to mail theft, the caller says yes, but, and repeats that someone is stealing his mail, the hotline operator repeats that we can’t help, etc.  How to avoid this: 

  1. Filter your issues down to single, relevant issues 
  2. Research who is involved with each issue 
  3. Contact the correct entity or sub-entity for each issue separately 

Please do not use legal words or phrases in your complaint; they are mostly incomprehensible to the personnel reviewing the complaint.  Please do not include our Office as a courtesy copy recipient of your complaint:  please either report to us directly, or don’t report to us at all.  Be clear on what you have actual knowledge of, and how you know it.  Please do not make things up, embellish, enhance, or attempt to be helpful by filling-in missing information:  you do not know what we already know about the situation, so if you misrepresent your information, you will lose credibility.  Please do not report the same matter to us several different ways.  We’re a small office, and we only have one person who processes intakes.  Please do not send us copied text from electronic mail conversations or contracts or other documents without any explanation of the underlying matter that prompted you to contact this Office.  Instead, please compose a clear, concise, statement explaining your concerns and identifying specifically the relevant NARA personnel, programs, offices, etc. that are involved.  Please do not make vague allegations, e.g., “a senior official at NARA abuses the time and attendance policy.”  Instead, be specific, e.g., “Assistant Program Manager for Medieval Manuscripts John Smith, Pre-Columbian Documents Section, Oahu, Hawaii, National Archives facility, took vacation from July 7th through August 12th and ordered the timekeeper, Marc Ondres, not to record the use of leave.”  Finally, unless you develop additional information that is at once relevant, significant, and new, or that is time-sensitive, please limit yourself to your original report or complaint rather than submitting unsolicited information updates.  If you provide complete, accurate, and up-to-date contact information, then we will contact you for additional information if necessary. 

Electronic Mail Messages or the Online Complaint Form 

Write in complete sentences, and avoid casual variations in spelling and usage such as those common to informal modes of communication (e.g., texting).  If you use abbreviations or acronyms, explain them fully.  When referring to people, provide their full names, actual (not informal) titles, and organizational units.  If you provide a clear statement of your concerns, and complete, accurate, and up-to-date contact information, then it is not necessary for you to submit supporting documents with your report or complaint.  If, after reviewing your report or complaint, we determine we require any additional information from you, then we will contact you.  Please do not send copies of laws or legal rulings:  we have access to the most up-to-date versions of all such information, so if it is important that you refer to such in your report or complaint, then it is sufficient that you include only an accurate citation in the appropriate format.  When sending electronic mail messages, do not send nested attachments (attachments within attachments).  They usually can’t be opened, and sometimes they’re overlooked.  Do not send more than three attachments per electronic mail communication. 


Please do not save-up complaints.  If there’s something wrong, or potentially wrong, or that you’re suspicious of, then please report it immediately.  Timeliness is important:  documents go missing, witnesses forget, victims leave the agency, evidence fades, statutes of limitations expire, and people pass on.  That said, if you have been sitting on long-standing problems or a list of issues that haven’t yet built-up to the point that you felt compelled to report, please report.  Don’t let it build-up and fester until it can no longer be timely fixed and that may never be quite right again even after an exhaustive effort to put things right.  We understand that, in many cases, you’re looking to give someone the benefit of the doubt, or even to recognize that someone has been going-through a rough patch in their lives and you’re helping them in an act of compassion, and that’s noble, everyone here respects that, we’re human, we have bad periods in our lives, too.  We have empathy and the experience to distinguish between temporary problems that call for some slack and problems that are too big and need to be addressed.  Remember that investigations are not our Office’s only function.  Sometimes, disciplinary action is appropriate, but that’s not our focus at all; we’re trying to help NARA fulfill its mission effectively with a workplace that is fair, engaging, diverse, and purposeful.