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Freedom of Information and Public Records: Federal: Freedom of Information Act

What is FOIA?

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, was enacted in 1966 and provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. Agencies are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request. There are 9 exemptions to FOIA as well as 3 exclusions, which are rarely used, that pertain to especially sensitive law enforcement and national security matters. 

9 Exemptions

  1. Classified Matters of National Defense or Foreign Policy
  2. Internal Personnel Rules and Policies
  3. Information Specifically Exempted by Other Statutes
  4. Trade Secrets, Commercial or Financial Information
  5. Privileged Interagency or Intra-agency Memorandum or Letters 
  6. Personnel Information Effecting a Person's Privacy
  7. Investigatory Records Compiled for Law Enforcement Purposes
  8. Records of Financial Institutions
  9. Geographical and Geophysical Information Concerning Wells

3 Exclusions

  • The subject of a criminal investigation or proceeding is unaware of the existence of records concerning is unaware of the existence of records concerning the pending investigation or proceeding and disclosure of such records would interfere with the investigation or proceeding.
  • Informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency and the individual's status as an informant is not known.

  • The existence of FBI foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, or international terrorism records is a classified fact.

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