Ryan is widely known as a leading expert on the Freedom of Information Act and is Executive Director of the transparency non-profit Property of the People. Politico describes Ryan as “a FOIA guru.” MuckRock describes Ryan as “a FOIA superhero.” The FBI argued in federal court that Ryan’s MIT dissertation FOIA research methodologies are themselves a threat to national security.
Ryan is an historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and government transparency. In addition to being a longtime activist, Ryan holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a former Research Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
Ryan sued the FBI to access to Aaron’s FBI files and received documents showing that the FBI had an erroneous code in Aaron’s FBI database record (for an International Terrorist investigation) based on a single email that Aaron sent to the University’s Computer Science Department and Computer Services and Systems Development office (CSSD).