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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.
- Classified Matters of National Defense or Foreign Policy
- Internal Personnel Rules and Policies
- Information Specifically Exempted by Other Statutes
- Trade Secrets, Commercial or Financial Information
- Privileged Interagency or Intra-agency Memorandum or Letters
- Personnel Information Effecting a Person's Privacy
- Investigatory Records Compiled for Law Enforcement Purposes
- Records of Financial Institutions
- Geographical and Geophysical Information Concerning Wells
- 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.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
The Reporters Committee provides a variety of resources on public records and open meetings laws, also known as sunshine laws, right to know laws, or freedom of information acts. These laws provide a legal basis for access to government records and meetings, with certain exceptions.
iFOIA is a project of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. It allows registered users to create, send, maintain and share FOI requests at the state and federal level.
FOIA Wiki (Beta)
A project of several First Amendment groups, FOIA Wiki provides links to pages on departments, agencies, and sub-components of the federal government. Each page has specific information about the entity, including FOIA submission information, regulations, FOIA statistics, information systems, and recent litigation.
This website is not available during the shutdown.
Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act
The Guide is a comprehensive legal treatise on the FOIA and includes detailed discussions of the FOIA’s procedural requirements, nine exemptions, and litigation considerations. Each section contains a detailed analysis of the key judicial opinions issued on the FOIA.
National Archives, Office of Information Policy, FOIA Resources
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) resource for the public and the government that serves as the government's FOIA ombudsman. OGIS is charged with reviewing FOIA policies, procedures and compliance of Federal agencies and identifying ways to improve compliance. Its mission also includes resolving FOIA disputes between Federal agencies and requesters.
George Washington University, National Security Archive
The Archive consists of an investigative journalism center, a research institute on international affairs, a library and an archive of declassified U.S. documents, a public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, a global advocate of open government, and an indexer and publisher of former secrets.
MuckRock is a non-profit, collaborative news site that brings together journalists, researchers, activists, and regular citizens to request, analyze, and share government documents, making politics more transparent and democracies more informed. The site provides a repository of hundreds of thousands of pages of original government materials, information on how to file requests, and tools to make the requesting process easier.
George Washington University, National Security Archives
The National Security Archive combines an investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, and library and archive of declassified U.S. documents. It is the leading non-profit user of the U.S. FOIA, a public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, a global advocate of open government, and an indexer and publisher of former secrets.
National Freedom of Information Coalition
NFOIC is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of state and regional affiliates representing 45 states and the District of Columbia. NFOIC promotes press freedom, legislative and administrative reforms, dispute resolutions and litigation (when needed) to ensure open, transparent and accessible state and local governments and public institutions.
Transnational Records Access Clearinghouse
The goal of FOIAproject.org is to provide the public with timely and complete information about every instance in which the federal government grants or withholds records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Updated daily, this “FOIA accountability engine” now includes detailed information on every case that challenges government withholding in federal court. TRAC has started expanding coverage to decisions on FOIA administrative requests on an agency-by-agency basis. TRAC aims to: (1) create a shaming mechanism by which agencies and officials who ignore the law are held accountable, and (2) arm the public with the full record of FOIA efforts that have and haven’t worked, so anyone can more effectively surmount frequently used roadblocks to public access.