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Transparency 101: Judicial Watch FOIA Handbook

Transparency 101: Judicial Watch FOIA Handbook

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Transparency 101:
Judicial Watch FOIA
Judicial Watch, Inc.
Your Reference for Ensuring Transparency, Accountability
and Integrity Government
Because One Above the Law
Judicial Watch, Inc., 425 Third Street SW, Suite 800, Washington, 20024
Table Contents
Chapter Open Records/FOIA Overview
Chapter Privacy Act Overview
Chapter Listing Agencies and Contact Information
Chapter FOIA/PA Exemptions
Chapter FOIA/PA Request Administration Requirements, Remedies Litigation
Chapter Sample FOIA Letter ...
Chapter Sample FOIA Appeal
Chapter Sample Letter ...
Chapter Sample Appeal
Chapter 10: Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)
Chapter 11: References
President Barack Obama called for greater openness government during his first presidential
campaign, famously promising run the most transparent administration American history.
Indeed, Mr. Obama said through presidential memorandum issued his first day office:
 All agencies should adopt presumption favor disclosure, order renew their
commitment the principles embodied FOIA The presumption disclosure should
applied all decisions involving FOIA. 
Here Judicial Watch, couldn agree more!
There are other legal instruments routinely available the general public that have allowed
for greater accountability government decisions and for the protection individual privacy
rights than the Freedom Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act (PA). this handbook,
Judicial Watch, Inc., the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government
corruption, seeks put the knowledge using federal FOIA and laws into the hands
families, churches, communities, organizations and all individuals interested learning more
about the decisions, operations and activities their government, well gain access
information the government may have that relates them.
The centralization power the federal level over the past century and the sheer vastness
the federal bureaucracy have made easy for officials keep important decisions from public
scrutiny. Small offices and agencies have been given decision-making authority about which
many Americans have likely never heard. This handbook seeks empower Americans with the
ability to: (1) identify records sought; (2) draft, submit, and administratively appeal requests; and
(3) prepare litigate FOIA and requests regarding information that they seek either for
public benefit information pertaining directly them that they have right access.
Encouraging numbers show the American public does not take their rights freedom
information under the FOIA and for granted, demonstrated the growing use both
laws. For example, according the government own statistics contained annual reports
published the Department Justice Office Information and Privacy (OIP), the number
FOIA requests filed with federal agencies and departments increased between 2009 and 2012
from 557,825 651,254.1 This represents nearly 17% increase from Fiscal Year 2009
Fiscal Year 2012, and the highest number FOIA requests record. these requests for information accomplish anything bring about more ethical conduct and
accountability for decisions made the Washington elite? they have impact the lives real people? Yes! Through FOIA, the 1990s, Americans learned about the selling
Commerce Department trade mission seats Democratic Party and Clinton Administration
Data obtained from FOIA Post (2010): Summary Annual FOIA Reports for Fiscal Year 2009 and Summary Annual FOIA Reports for Fiscal Year 2012, available
and, respectively, accessed October 29,
campaign contributors, who happened have connections Chinese military intelligence and
agents espionage. They revealed the Clinton Administration efforts use IRS audits
intimidate adversaries and detractors. Americans used FOIA obtain lists almost 300 Saudi
subjects, including members the Bin Laden family, which the Bush administration allowed
leave the country shortly after 9/11 with little questioning authorities. After the anthrax
attacks the fall 2001, postal workers the Washington, area learned the United States
Postal Service knew the Brentwood mail processing facility was contaminated with anthrax
least four days before they chose close it. Over the years Americans have learned about the
lack security nuclear laboratories, and controversial details the John Kennedy and
Martin Luther King assassinations, all using information received through FOIA.
More recently, records obtained Judicial Watch through FOIA revealed that the Justice
Department Community Relations Service actively participated inflaming racial tensions
Sanford, Florida the spring 2012 following the death Trayvon Martin. June 2013,
Judicial Watch obtained through FOIA request records revealing that the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau had spent millions dollars collecting personal financial transaction data,
without warrant, five million American consumers. Judicial Watch also successfully used
FOIA force the release from the State Department gruesome photos depicting the aftermath the September 2012 terrorist attack the diplomatic compound Benghazi, Libya that
left four Americans, including our ambassador that country, dead. America experience with
its freedom information laws can hardly called useless exercise.
Judicial Watch alone has filed thousands public information record requests under FOIA
and all levels government since its founding 1994. has set FOIA and legal
precedent the United States District Court for the District Columbia several times. Today,
with Congress having little desire perform its constitutional obligation control the
functions the executive branch, the burden fighting for accountability and oversight are
increasingly becoming matter for individual citizens and local communities. the hope
Judicial Watch that the American people, their families, churches, and community groups will
use this handbook inform and defend themselves from the adverse power and corruption
government and bring about renewal ethics and good conduct public life.
Chapter -The Freedom Information Act Overview
The Freedom Information Act (FOIA), U.S.C. 552, was enacted Congress and signed
into law President Lyndon Johnson 1966. The enactment FOIA gave the public the
right obtain and access information from federal government agencies. Previously, the
government placed burden the individual making request prove right examine the
documents. The enactment FOIA reversed this process placing the burden upon the
government justify withholding the documents. While FOIA does not require the government create any documents regarding information request, requires that its agencies release any
document, file other record that already exists pertaining the request. FOIA was amended 1996 include electronic information.
Only executive branch agencies the federal government are subject FOIA. does not apply Congress any the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the White House,
including the Office the President and Vice President, they are constitutional officers, not
agencies. Individual offices the Executive Office the President (EOP), such the Office
National Drug Control Policy, which serve directly under the President, are subject FOIA.
Multinational organizations such the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization
(WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank (WB), which the United
States member, are not subject FOIA because they are not federal agencies. FOIA does
not provide access records held state local government agencies, private businesses
individuals. However, states have their own statutes regarding access state and local
government records. Individual state agencies should contacted for further information.
FOIA applies any federal agency records that are either created obtained agency and
under the agency control the time the request. Under FOIA the term record, and any
other term used reference information, includes any information that would agency
record subject FOIA, including records electronic format, maps, photos, digital data,
handwritten notes, and video and audio tapes. FOIA request can made any individual, partnership, corporation, association foreign
government. Requests can also made behalf any person attorney
representative. Federal agencies are excluded from making FOIA requests; however, states and
state agencies may so. There are two exceptions the open eligibility standard for making
FOIA requests. The first exception fugitives from justice, the requested records relate his her fugitive status. Secondly, agencies the intelligence community are precluded from
disclosing records information response FOIA request foreign governments
international governmental organizations. Both exclusions also apply representatives the
requester. request must made writing and clearly describe the records sought, preferably bulleted numbered items. possible, the request letter should cite news report other public
evidence that the records requested exist and are the possession the agency. The request
should sent both facsimile (fax) and certified mail, with the fax number and USPS
certified tracking number listed the letter below the mail address. Many agencies now accept
FOIA requests submitted email through online portal well. For sample FOIA
request letter, see Chapter
Frequently, requester may intensely focused obtaining the correct documents and
crafting precise request letter achieve that goal that she fails consider the costs that
may associated with making request. Many people may not realize that failure ask for
fee waiver writing poor request for one could result substantial bill for search,
duplication and review costs. Agencies typically require payment fees prior the production records. Preemptively requesting fee waiver the body the FOIA request letter and
imposing limit the amount you are willing pay makes the request process smoother.
you fail stipulate the fee limit fail request notification before fees are incurred, you may left with large bill that unaffordable. inability pay the costs could result denial access the requested records.
The Freedom Information Act allows agencies charge fees for duplication costs
(photocopying reproducing the records), costs searching for documents (the staff time spent
looking agency offices archives for the records), and document review costs (the staff time
spent reviewing the records see what information responsive the request and looking for
For the purposes FOIA, there are three categories document requesters:
Members the Media are formal print, broadcast, radio, freelance reporters,
educational non-commercial scientific institutions whose purpose scholarly
scientific research. This category most advantageous requester, entitling him
two free hours search time and the first 100 pages document duplication free.
Commercial requesters are individuals groups who are involved profit-making
activity who have for-profit business interest the requested information.
Requesters this category can charged reasonable standard fees.
All others are those not one the classifications above. Examples the requesters
who fall into this last category are people seeking information for personal use, public
interest groups, and non-profit organizations. Standard fees can charged for
duplication and research, but not for review costs. The requester this category
entitled two free hours search time and the first 100 pages document duplication
With two free hours search time and 100 pages free duplication the first and third
requester categories, small, clearly defined and described requests that are easy for the staff
locate and retrieve, and amounting only few pages will likely not incur fees. For requests
made members the media and all other categories, further waiver fees possible,
assuming their requests are more complicated, requiring more complex search and involving
greater volume records.
However, the category requester does not automatically mean they will given fee
waiver. The requester must demonstrate public interest the release the records. Fees can waived reduced the information disclosure the public interest.
Courts applying the public interest fee waiver provision FOIA typically take into account
four factors determining whether grant waiver: (1) whether the subject the requested
records concerns the operations activities government; (2) whether disclosure the
requested records likely contribute understanding government operations
activities; (3) whether disclosure the requested records will contribute reasonably broad
audience and whether the requester has the ability and intention disseminate the information the public; and (4) whether disclosure the requested record will contribute significantly
the public understanding. See D.C. Technical Assistance Org. HUD, Supp. 46, 48-49
(D.D.C. 2000); C.F.R. 16.11(k)(2)(i)-(iv). Requests for public interest waivers are judged case-by-case basis. Larson CIA, 843 F.2d 1481, 1483 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
Commercial requesters that have financial interest the information will find difficult get fee waiver because information disclosures they seek are generally regarded matter selfinterest, not the public interest large. Additionally, the disclosure primarily for the
commercial interests the requester, the waiver will likely denied.
Requesters who seek fee waiver should ask for the original request letter, even though
determination the fee waiver request from the government agency could come much later
the administrative litigation process. the waiver denied, requesters have the right
The key factor applying for fee waiver the original request letter demonstrating that the
disclosure information significantly enhances broad public audience understanding the
operations and activities the government. When making the case for public interest release
records, important logical, factual, and resist emotional personal attacks against
government officials agencies. That not say you cannot discuss the human element
impacted the government decisions which you are seeking disclosure. This best done
explaining that the public well-being affected the decisions and there need for the
public informed these decisions that have adverse effect their lives. Emotional
attacks will not help persuade officials that this request the public interest. Continue
thinking how this information would help people understand the decisions and operations
The requester must demonstrate the ability and intention disseminate this information the
public and should cite past examples dissemination. For example, newspaper articles,
columns other published reports written the requester, appearances radio and/or
television shows, productions the same the requester, etc. reflect prior examples
public dissemination information. The requester should describe the request letter what she intends with the information. Establishing public interest the subject matter
not enough qualify for fee waiver. The requester must show the ability and intention
publish the information.
Categorization 501(c)(3) non-profit organization the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
alone not enough qualify for fee waiver, although can help demonstrate the requester
does not have commercial interest the information. Prior fee waivers granted the agency
have effect the agency analysis the current request, although beneficial cite past
fee waivers and categorizations (such previous classification member the media);
however, those assertions alone are not enough qualify for waiver.
Response Time
Once agency has received FOIA request, the agency has business days respond. The business day period begins the day that the request received the correct agency, but
later than days after the request received any part the agency. There are three
appropriate responses FOIA request: (1) compliance with the request; (2) non-compliance
and the reason for not doing so; and (3) the request for extension not more than days due unusual exceptional circumstances. Unusual circumstances occur when agency
needs collect information outside their head office, there unusually large amount
information process, the cooperation another agency necessary obtain the
requested records. Exceptional circumstances occur when agency experiencing backlog, when the requester refuses modify the size and scope their request.
There are two exceptions for when agency response time automatically extended: When agency needs clarify information request from the requester, when there fee
dispute between the two parties. any other adverse response received, requesters have the right appeal and may file
administrative appeal with the agency. Failure appeal administratively may result
inability litigate. response received administrative review upholds adverse
response, the requester has the right sue federal court. For further information about appeals
see Chapter The FOIA allows requesters sue government officials who refuse release
information, but the requester can only obtain attorneys fees, awards court costs, and court
order for the FOIA request answered.
Often, groups and organizations have compelling need get the full facts and truth
government decision urgently and time not their side. The ability get the full truth about government action decision quickly needed order properly inform and protect the
rights, life, and physical safety the public. some requesters know, FOIA requests can take
years answered completed, especially the requester does not follow file lawsuit
over the request. This reality use those who need immediate answers for time6
sensitive problems. For example, request about official who made controversial decisions
the executive branch and who now for high profile appointment for another sensitive
position urgent need.
For urgent cases, 552 (a)(6)(E) provides for expedited processing FOIA
requests. The statute requires that determination whether provide expedited processing
shall made, and notice the determination shall provided the person making the
request, within days after the date the request; and expeditious consideration
administrative appeals such determinations whether provide expedited processing. 
Within days filing FOIA request with request for expedited processing, the agency
required inform you the request for expedited processing has been granted denied. the
request granted, your request will put ahead other requesters seeking information from
that agency and will given greater priority.
Occasionally when granted expedited processing, especially the request narrow with clear
description, the agency will respond full with the records sought within the working days.
However, this not usually the case and expedited processing simply results having your
request put ahead others which indeed will save some time. However, even granted
expedited processing, important keep contact with the agency FOIA office regarding
the search progress and when you can expect receive the requested documents. suggest
maintaining contact placing frequent, but reasonable and courteous, phone calls the staff
person assigned the request and following with letters documenting phone conversations. left alone requester that has been given expedited treatment may not receive the records
quickly enough achieve the purpose their request. Denial expedited processing
request may administratively appealed litigation pursued given improper initial
response denial administrative appeal. Furthermore, demonstration compelling need requester making request for expedited processing shall made statement certified such requester true and correct the best such requester knowledge and belief.
Every FOIA request important the requester; however, every request cannot granted
expedited processing. There definite and defined criterion for being granted expedited
status. The requester must state, demonstrate and certify that:
(1) Failure obtain requested records expedited basis could reasonably
expected pose imminent threat the life physical safety individual;
(2) With respect request made person primarily engaged disseminating
information, urgency inform the public concerning actual alleged federal
government activity. granted this status necessary show that failure get these records timely
manner will imminently threaten the life physical safety someone, such person
death row needing urgent information for his appeal, someone who needs facts about nuclear
waste plant that alleged dangerous nearby town. Otherwise, you must certify that
you are person organization primarily the business disseminating information, such
news reporter publishing house, and that you have urgent need inform the public the
operations and activities their government. One could request expedited processing under
both provisions, requester circumstance and situation fall under both provisions.
Individual agencies may have additional provisions, options, requirements for expedited
processing. advise potential requesters check agency regulations and websites for
additional criteria that individual agencies might have addition those mandated FOIA
itself. list agency FOIA websites with contact information can found Chapter
Both provisions for expedited processing require compelling need the part the requester. particular, the person requesting required submit statement certification stating
that: (1) they are person entity primarily engaged dissemination information (if this
applies them, the second provision above) and (2) the best their knowledge and
belief, they have compelling need for the information being sought. This certification
statement can simple paragraph consisting few sentences the request letter, can attached the letter itself. does not need notarized Notary Public. The
procedure for statement certification may vary among agencies.
Agency Responsibilities important understand FOIA policy and how contributes our nation principle open
government. essential, however, for agencies apply FOIA policy practice. FOIA
dedicated openness, effective implementation, and accountability. Agencies are instructed
consider partial disclosure when full disclosure impossible. When partial disclosure viable,
the agency providing the documents must indicate the amount unavailable information and
what exemption prohibits its release. Agencies should consistently provide prompt responses
FOIA requesters and use the technologies available supply the public with dependable and
useful information.
There are certain requirements that all federal departments and agencies must follow facilitate
the process for FOIA requesters. Once agency receives request must respond within the
time requirement and assign that request tracking number. The tracking number allows the
requester monitor the status the request. agency rejects request entirely, the
Attorney General must notify the Special Counsel and Congress any civil action that follows.
The public can also benefit from agency responsibility file annual reports. The report
must include the number requests received, the range, median, and average amount days
response takes issued, data the oldest pending requests, and other information. These
responsibilities were put place make the process more transparent and allow the
American public hold our government the highest standards transparency and
Chapter Privacy Act 1974 Overview
Congress passed the Privacy Act 1974, USC 552a, the midst the abuses the Nixon
White House and alleged abuse the FBI and other government agencies with regard the
holding and dissemination information individuals and groups that time. Particularly
troubling was the growing trend government agencies store massive amounts personal
information computerized data banks. The allows citizen learn how records are
collected, maintained, used and disseminated federal agencies; also allows individuals
access that information and seek correction inaccurate, incomplete irrelevant information.
The Privacy Act recognizes individual right left alone. gives citizen the right
inspect government files maintained him herself, prevent improper distribution and/or
dissemination those records, and the ability challenge errors. The act forbids any
government agency from releasing personal data kept anyone part system records transferring another federal agency department for uses not compatible with the
purposes for which the information was collected without the individual written consent.
Federal officials who improperly release these records may sued for damages, court fees and
attorney costs.
The only records subject the are those that are maintained system records. Under
the law record includes most personal information maintained agency about
individual. record contains individually identifiable information, including, but not limited to,
information about education, financial transactions, medical history, criminal history
employment history. system records group records that retrieved name,
Social Security number other identifying number assigned individual. Not all personal
information kept system records; however, this information would accessible
making FOIA request. The Department Homeland Security and the Automated Targeting
System are exempt from providing some these records due ADIS (Arrival and Departure
Information System) information that relates national security, law enforcement, immigration,
and intelligence activity.
The gives individual citizen (including person being investigated, persecuted
retaliated against for blowing the whistle corruption) access documents that could clear
his her name provide evidence retaliation. can also provide legal remedy seek
justice for the improper disclosure government-held personal information officials
effort discredit individual.
Only United States citizens and aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence are eligible
make request. result this provision, nonresident foreign nationals must use FOIA
request records about themselves. citizen organization seeking information under the
Privacy Act about another individual must get waiver signed the individual the information
concerns order allow the government the ability release the records.
The Privacy Act, like the Freedom Information Act, applies only the agencies and
departments the executive branch government. Although the PA, like FOIA, does not apply the White House, penalties apply for any individual, journalist, government agency, official, constitutional officer who knowingly releases PA-protected material others, the case former President Clinton. The was written minimize its effect FOIA. Many
journalists and government watchdog groups consider the effect the their ability
collect information minimal, but they voice objections nonetheless. individual seeking information about him herself will find that similar rules apply
making request that apply making FOIA request. The records sought should clearly
defined and identified and the offices repositories within agency department which
the requested records are located should specified unless you desire that all relevant offices the entire agency searched. person full name (including any past names aliases), date birth (DOB), place birth (POB), Social Security number (SSN), and title, appropriate,
should given order facilitate the search for records. See Chapter for sample
request letter. these records are sent party other than the requester, then the requester must give
written consent the transfer. For example, individual who accused crime wishes
make request for their FBI file and wishes the information sent directly his her
attorney, the request letter must state that this individual his her counsel and give written
consent for the agency release the records the attorney. The release must also include the
address which the information sent and the notarized signature the requester.
Likewise, citizen wanted request information another living person, that person must
sign waiver, provided the office individual agency and often available online,
notarize letter stating desire have the records released the requester. Each agency has
different rules for such waivers and releases. Records the deceased are requestable.
request the records deceased individual you must provide the person name, aliases, date
and place birth, copy the death certificate newspaper obituary, and why you think the
agency department would have the requested records.
Under the PA, fees can only charged for record copying costs. fees are charged for the
cost search and review the records determine any applicable exemptions. Many agencies
will not charge fees for making copy file, especially small files, and agency can
waive fees they pose hardship.
There fixed time which the agency must respond Privacy Act request; however,
good agency practice acknowledge receipt the request days and provide the
information requested within days. many agencies, FOIA and requests are processed the same personnel and are attended the order which they are received.
The balance protecting the individual legitimate right privacy and the public right
know often pits civil libertarians against journalists and vice versa. What one person claim
privacy can another person allegation cover-up. (For example, consider open
record case which Judicial Watch found the FBI using privacy rights justification
withhold the name Osama Bin Laden from publicly available newspaper articles that were
released under FOIA.)
The includes number exemptions that many ways mirror the exemptions the FOIA.
(See Chapter for further information about exemptions.) These exemptions allow government
agencies transfer release information individual without his consent for law
enforcement purposes, for use Congress, the Census Bureau and similar government
agencies, well giving agencies the ability release information determined public
under FOIA.
Similar rules apply when requester has been denied information under one the
exemptions. Like requests made under FOIA, adverse determination must appealed
timely manner, respectfully refuting the claim exemption. See Chapter for more information
about appeals and Chapter for sample appeal letter.
The has penalties for violations well. official who discloses too much personal
information response request can face monetary penalties and sanctions.
Chapter Federal Agencies FOIA Websites
Federal Departments
Department Agriculture
Department Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Department Defense Air Force Army Defense Contract Audit Agency Defense Contract Management Agency Defense Finance and Accounting Service Defense Information Systems Agency Defense Intelligence Agency Defense Logistics Agency Defense Security Service Defense Threat Reduction Agency Marine Corps National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency National Reconnaissance Office National Security Agency Navy Office the Inspector General
Department Education
Department Energy
Department Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare Medicaid Food and Drug Administration National Institutes Health
Department Homeland Security United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Bureau Customs and Border Protection Federal Emergency Management Agency Transportation Security Administration United States Coast Guard United States Secret Service
Department Housing and Urban Development
Department the Interior
Department Justice Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Drug Enforcement Administration Federal Bureau Investigation Federal Bureau Prisons United States Marshals Service
Department Labor
Department State
Department Transportation Federal Aviation Administration
Department the Treasury Comptroller the Currency Internal Revenue Service
Department Veterans Affairs
Federal Agencies
Agency for International Development
Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corporation)
Broadcasting Board Governors
Central Intelligence Agency
Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
Commission Civil Rights
Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind Severely Disabled
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Corporation for National and Community Service
Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District Columbia
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
Environmental Protection Agency
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Executive Office the President Council Environmental Quality Office Administration Office Management and Budget Office National Drug Control Policy Office Science and Technology Policy Office the United States Trade Representative
Export-Import Bank
Farm Credit Administration
Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation
Federal Communications Commission
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Federal Election Commission
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Federal Housing Finance Agency
Federal Labor Relations Authority
Federal Maritime Commission
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission
Federal Open Market Committee
Federal Reserve System
Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board
Federal Trade Commission
General Services Administration
Institute Museum and Library Services
Inter-American Foundation
Legal Services Corporation
Library Congress (Copyright Office)
Merit Systems Protection Board
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Archives and Records Administration
National Credit Union Administration
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
National Indian Gaming Commission
National Labor Relations Board
National Mediation Board
National Science Foundation
National Transportation Safety Board
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
Office Government Ethics
Office Personnel Management
Office Special Counsel
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
Peace Corps
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
Postal Regulatory Commission
Railroad Retirement Board
Securities and Exchange Commission
Selective Service System
Small Business Administration
Social Security Administration
Surface Transportation Board
Tennessee Valley Authority
United States International Trade Commission
United States Postal Service
United States Trade and Development Agency
Chapter Exemptions
Freedom Information Act
The Freedom Information Act contains nine exemptions mandatory disclosure the
interest protecting national security, individual and business interests, and certain internal
government practices. Records that fall within one the exemptions can still released the
discretion the individual agency. Even document containing exempt information can
released with the exempted information redacted. This important feature FOIA because
prevents request from being denied whole because single section page falls within one the exemption categories.
With the advent technology became difficult determine what information, word,
paragraph, pages, had been withheld. The 1996 amendment FOIA mandates that agencies
must identify the locations deletions and show the deletion within the actual document when feasible so. order account for withheld documents, agencies are required provide Vaughn Index. The index must accomplish three things: (1) identify each document withheld;
(2) state the statutory exemption claimed for each withheld document; and (3) explain how
disclosure would damage the interests protected the claimed exemption for each document
withheld. The purpose the index for agency justify any withholdings has made and sufficiently enough allow court decide the withholdings were proper and the
requester challenge the withholdings.
The first FOIA exemption relates national defense foreign policy records that are properly
classified according Executive Order. U.S.C. 552(b)(1). This exemption protects
classified information and records the basis national security. The classification guidelines
are established and maintained the president. Classified documents may requested under
FOIA; however, they must reviewed the agency determine the record still requires
classified status.
The second FOIA exemption safeguards the internal personnel rules and practices agency. U.S.C. 552(b)(2). There are two categories documents that fall under this exclusion. The
first documents information regarding personnel rules internal agency practice that has public interest, such vacation policies. The second information that disclosed could
lead the circumventing law agency regulations. Material falling this category has
regulate internal agency conduct, such procedure and practices manual. Information falling
within this category frequently seen consisting trivial administrative matters.
The third FOIA exemption allows agencies withhold documents specifically exempted
other federal statutes. U.S.C. 552(b)(3). However, the statute must: (1) require the matter
wholly withheld from the public manner leaving room for discretion; (2) establish
particular criteria for withholding; (3) refer particular types matters withheld. This
exemption simply incorporates other statutes restricting information into FOIA. the
agency duty demonstrate how the withheld record comes within the identified statute.
Agencies are required list the statutes they use that relate Exemption their annual FOIA
report. Those reports are reviewed annually the Office Information and Privacy and are
accessible the Department Justice FOIA website.
The fourth FOIA exemption prevents disclosure trade secrets and commercial financial
information obtained from person and considered privileged confidential. U.S.C. 
552(b)(4). trade secret commercially valuable plan, formula, process device used
industry that resulted from either innovation substantial effort. Courts have determined that
information qualifies trade secret disclosure likely hurt the competitive position the
person company who submitted the disclosure would impair the government ability get such information future date. Commercial financial information easily
identifiable without special provisions; however, its privileged confidential nature must also determined before disclosure. This exemption intended protect both the government and
submitters information protects sensitive trade, commercial financial information,
while also assuring the information reliable result the safeguards.
The fifth FOIA exemption protects inter-agency intra-agency memoranda letters which
would not available law party other than agency litigation with the agency.
U.S.C. 552(b)(5). Exemption grossly overused agencies deny FOIA requests. The
three primary privileges invoked Exemption are deliberative process privilege, attorney
work-product privilege, and attorney-client privilege.
The deliberative process exemption was designed give agencies privileges against
discovery order protect agency decision-making. Granting agencies privilege would
encourage open and full policy debates, well prevent early release working
policy. The D.C. Appellate Court has stated that the language incorporates all civil
discovery rules into FOIA. order for the deliberative process privilege invoked,
the communication must both predecisional and deliberative nature. Documents are
predecisional when they are prepared prior the adoption agency policy. such,
Exemption typically does not apply post-decisional documents; however, this applies the document content rather than the date production. Documents are deliberative
when they reflect the give-and-take the consultative process. the responsibility the agency show the information satisfies both qualifications.
Exemption also protects documents and other memoranda prepared attorney
contemplation litigation. The work-product privilege extends civil and
administrative proceedings, criminal matters and documents generated preparation amicus brief. Work-product privilege broadly extends litigation that has not
commenced, but probable; materials prepared non-attorneys under the supervision attorneys; information shared with party holding common interest the agency; and
factual material.
Attorney-client privilege also protected under Exemption This includes confidential
communications between attorney and client relating matter for which the client
has sought professional advice, facts divulged client attorney, opinions given
clients, and communications between attorneys regarding client-supplied information.
Attorney-client privilege extends cover communications where the specific
information confidential, but the basic subject matter known others.
The sixth FOIA exemption safeguards personnel and medical files and similar files the
disclosure which would constitute clearly unwarranted invasion personal privacy.
U.S.C. 552 (b)(6). The Department Defense has broadly, and unlawfully, interpreted (b)(6) include the names all Department Defense employees. They base this novel application (b)(6) personnel memo citing the Global War Terror. Judicial Watch fighting
reverse this disturbing trend the Department Defense one that obviously violates both the
spirit and the letter FOIA. This exemption protects the privacy individual personal
information government files. does not protect the privacy corporations groups,
there expectation the protection personal privacy for such entities. Protection
information provided corporations groups would provided Exemption Agencies
are expected maintain balance between the individual privacy right and the public right the disclosure information. Exemption overlaps with the Privacy Act; however,
information exempted FOIA can disclosed under the PA.
The seventh FOIA exemption protects information compiled for law enforcement purposes.
U.S.C. 552 (b)(7). The intention behind this exemption allow agencies withhold law
enforcement documents order prevent interference with the enforcement process.
Exemption has six sub-exemptions.
Exemption protects information that could interfere with law enforcement proceedings,
thus protecting active investigations. This exemption applicable only investigation
pending planned and the release the information will compromise the investigation.
Exemption allows agency withhold information that, released, would deprive
person the right fair and impartial trial. This exemption aimed preventing
damaging pretrial publicity. order for this exemption claimed, the trial must truly
pending imminent and the release the information would seriously interfere with the
Exemption protects records that, disclosed, could warrant invasion privacy. This
exemption very similar Exemption that they both protect against invasion
privacy. However, Exemption used withhold information that could, instead
would, warrant invasion personal privacy and used only the confines law
enforcement purposes.
Exemption allows agencies withhold information that could reasonably expected
disclose the identity confidential source. Its purpose prevent the loss confidential
sources protecting the source identity the source free from the fear retaliation.
The protection this exemption stretches further than just individuals state, local
foreign agency authority any private institution that has furnished confidential
information with the expectation anonymity protected under this exemption. However,
not all sources investigation are considered confidential. Confidentiality determined case-by-case basis.
Exemption prevents the disclosure information that would reveal techniques,
procedures guidelines for investigations prosecutions. Disclosure such information
could lead circumvention the law.
Exemption protects information that, disclosed, could reasonably expected
endanger individual life physical safety. This exemption has been interpreted
courts providing for the protection names and identifying information individuals
who are connected request regarding law enforcement matter. The protection this
exemption remains even after involved law enforcement officers have retired.
The eighth FOIA exemption prohibits the disclosure information contained related
examination, operating condition reports prepared by, behalf of, for the use agency
responsible for the regulation supervision financial institutions. U.S.C. 552(b)(8). This
exemption typically only applies agencies such the Federal Reserve the Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation.
The ninth FOIA exemption protects geological and geophysical information and data, including
maps, concerning wells. U.S.C. 552(b)(9). This exemption rarely used and has yet
clearly defined. This provision has been used prevent the disclosure information regarding
natural resources, from groundwater natural gas.
Privacy Act
The Privacy Act contains exemptions. Unlike the Freedom Information Act, there are three
categories exemptions: special, general and specific. exemptions apply not record, but system records.
There one special exemption the PA. The special exemption states that nothing the
requires agency grant access any information compiled reasonable anticipation
civil action proceeding, including administrative hearings. U.S.C. 552a(d)(5). This
protects civil litigation files from access individuals, but does not incorporate deliberative
process attorney-client privileges. This exemption self-executing and does not require
implementing regulation.
There are two general exemptions the PA. The first exempts records maintained the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA). U.S.C. 552a(j)(1). The second exempts records maintained
agency component thereof which: (1) performs its principal function any activity pertaining the enforcement criminal laws; (2) consists identifying data compiled for the purpose criminal investigation; (3) associated with identifiable individual; (4) consists
reports identifiable individual compiled any stage the process enforcement
criminal laws. U.S.C. 552a(j)(2). There time limitation this exemption and applies
even there trial the investigation closed. Additionally, the exemption
applied records, not agencies law enforcement record held non-law enforcement
agency, still exempt.
There are seven specific exemptions. The first specific exemption applies records that relate
the national defense foreign policy and are properly classified. U.S.C. 552a(k)(1).
Classified information also exempt under FOIA and normally unavailable under both acts.
The second specific exemption applies investigatory records that are compiled for law
enforcement purposes. U.S.C. 552a(k)(2). The exemption limited cases which,
result the record maintenance, individual denied any right, privilege benefit which she would normally entitled. this case, disclosure the record required that
individual except when would result the revelation confidential source.
The third specific exemption applies records pertaining the protection the President
the United States. U.S.C. 552a(k)(3). This exemption also applies records any
individual receiving protection from the Secret Service.
The fourth specific exemption applies records that are required statute maintained and
used solely statistical records. U.S.C. 552a(k)(4).
The fifth specific exemption applies investigatory records that are used for employee
contractor suitability determinations. U.S.C. 552a(k)(5). This exemption covers
investigatory materials compiled solely determine suitability, eligibility qualifications for
federal civilian employment, military service, federal contracts access classified
information. The exemption only applies the extent that the information released would
compromise the identity confidential source that provided information the government
under express promise that the identity the source would remain confidential.
The sixth specific exemption applies the federal service exam test materials. U.S.C. 
552a(k)(6). Records containing testing examination material used solely determine
qualification for appointment promotion federal service are exempt when disclosure
would result compromising the objectivity fairness the process. This exemption
essentially provides for the withholding questions used employment tests.
The seventh specific exemption applies records that are used determine potential for
promotion the armed services. U.S.C. 552a(k)(7). The information only exempt the
extent that disclosure would reveal the identity confidential source that provided the
government with the information under express promise confidentiality.
Chapter Exhausting Administrative Remedies order file legally proper FOIA lawsuit, imperative that all administrative remedies
exhausted before litigation considered begun. That is, did the requester everything
possible obtain favorable result from the agency before going the courts?
Upon receipt FOIA request, agency has business days respond the request. When response provided can one three things: can completely fulfill the request
providing the records full; can partially adequate; can completely unacceptable. inadequate response response which the agency, the form letter, does not fulfill
the agency required action under FOIA. Common examples inadequate responses are the
failure respond with written letter within business days letter acknowledging receipt the request, but completely devoid any details regarding the determination the request,
the fee waiver expedited processing.
Depending the type inadequate response, the requester has several options. complete
failure the part the agency respond all the request within the statutory business
days can immediately litigated. There need appeal administratively complete failure respond. The requester may wait longer for response follow with letter phone call,
but these steps are not necessary. lawsuit can filed the twenty-first day the agency has
completely failed respond any way the request. agency response that timely but nonetheless inadequate due failure address the
actual merits the request can also litigated immediately. response that fails address the
request the fee waiver advise the requester his her FOIA rights, not considered substantive response under FOIA. requester who has received timely, but inadequate,
response has the option waiting longer for more adequate response, following with
letter phone call requesting update, commencing with the filing lawsuit. the
requester unsure whether the response qualifies substantive, filing official administrative
appeal the safe route protects his her litigation ability the event the court decides the
response was substantive. may best follow with another letter phone call, for
several reasons. First, demonstrates prudent, good faith effort resolve the issue before
resorting litigation. More importantly, the reason for the lack response could clerical
oversight, the first letter may have gotten lost the mail the office. follow-up letter
could compel legitimately overworked staff person respond the requester with the
requested records determination fee waiver, provide time frame when better
response will available. important remember the goal for the requester get the
requested documents and not have file lawsuit.
Unlike inadequate response, adverse determination decision ruling agency
regarding the request that, some way another, denies access the records. Typically, the
agency responds stating the documents requested are covered one more FOIA
exemptions claiming they searched all their files and records responsive the request
were found. For more information about FOIA exemptions, see Chapter Such determination called records response. These determinations, provided within the 20-business day
response window, not satisfy the request, but satisfy the agency statutory obligations
and, therefore, require administrative appeal. cases where the requester gets adverse decision, such the withholding records under exemption, response that responsive records exist possession the agency, denial fee waiver expedited processing request, the agency must, law, provide the requester
with administrative appeal rights.
Appeal rights give the requester the ability send another letter the agency, this time
effort get the adverse determination reversed another authority the agency. This
authority has been designated the FOIA appeals officer who accepts all such appeals from
The agency that issues the adverse determination must: (1) notify the requester the right
appeal; (2) identify the appeals officer and the officer contact information; and (3) state the
date when the appeal letter must received the officer. this appeal information not given the adverse response letter, the requester can automatically sue under the law. However,
would more prudent follow with phone call inquiring about the appeal rights and
asking that the response put writing.
Most agencies require the appeal sent and received within days the date the adverse
determination letter. Agencies normally give shorter appeal time for appeal for expedited
processing days. Administrative appeal deadlines are strictly enforced most agencies and
appeals received even one day late can denied being untimely. Thus, imperative that
appeals sent timely manner. the requester has missed the deadline few days
weeks the request should sent anyway, some agencies will accept appeal few days late
and some appeals officers are lenient. appeal has been denied for being untimely, the request would need resubmitted and
upon receipt adverse determination, timely appeal can then made. the case
requester who has received partial disclosure and appeals the withholding those documents
and the appeal has been denied for being untimely, request can filed seeking only the
information that was withheld. the appeal letter, important include all relevant facts for overturning the adverse
determination including: (1) support for the further release records withheld under any
exemptions reasons why the exemptions used the agency not apply the record
requested; (2) providing more details, rebuttal, about the requester ability disseminate
information and public interest value the records order overturn the denial fee
waiver; and/or (3) providing more information, rebuttal, about the requester being primarily
engaged information dissemination having compelling need for the records order
overturn denial expedited processing.
The appeals officer will only able consider the information and the record front him
her make the determination the requester administrative appeal. Again, important respectful, and not attack personally the FOIA staff that made the adverse determination
the government officials whose decisions are the subject the requested records.
Although adverse determinations and government citations the FOIA exemptions are
different the requests themselves, some common adverse determinations have basic responses.
For example, requester seeks information 40-year-old decision prosecute now
deceased mobster. response, the agency asserts the FOIA exemption (b)(6) (privacy), claiming
the release the records would injure the privacy rights those involved the trial
preceding investigation. They also assert (b)(5) (deliberative process and attorney work-product
doctrine), claiming these records, released, would expose the memos and drafts prosecutors
prepared make the decision prosecute. Disclosure these documents could make current
prosecutors unwilling make similar decisions for fear their records would opened
future date. And they assert (b)(7)(E) (circumventing the law), claiming release would disclose
the important details deliberation dialogue between law enforcement staff. this case, the
records would disclose the important deliberations between FBI investigators looking for
evidence and Department Justice prosecutors comparing the level evidence with what
necessary for conviction. Exposing this coordination evidence-seeking and preparation could
give criminals insight into what type evidence they need cover the future avoid
The appeal letter for this case could argue that the mobster has since died and retains claim
expectation privacy. Secondly, after years, the investigators who collected the evidence and
the prosecutors they shared with have moved other jobs retired. Additionally, there fear that current prosecutors would afraid disclosure their notes case that
years old. Lastly, could argued that the methods collecting evidence and the evidential
standards for seeking prosecution have changed substantially. addition, may argued that
the government systems for evaluating evidence have been revolutionized technology.
Thus, could argued that the claims exemption are moot, but public interest value the
disclosure remains the public will assured that justice was done. may difficult get
fee waiver case like this, because the information historical and not likely contribute significant understanding government operations and activities, since the operations and
activities disclosed have changed.
The most difficult FOIA exemption penetrate (b)(1) records that are currently and
properly classified the interests national security foreign policy. This includes many
records held the CIA and State Department. occasion possible for the State
Department another agency release further records withheld under (b)(1) after FOIA
appeal. However, after denial administrative appeal the only further recourse for
requester who fully dedicated obtaining the records file lawsuit, requiring judge
view the records camera (confidentially, behind closed, secure doors) see public interest
warrants declassification. Most these challenges not succeed. response administrative appeal the agency FOIA appeals officer required within
business days receipt the appeal letter. the appeal denied, the agency required
outline litigation rights the letter stating that under FOIA you now have the right sue
the U.S. District Court for the District Columbia, the Federal District Court where the
requester principal place business is. the requester gets response administrative
appeal within business days, has the right begin litigation, because response can
considered denial the requester rights. However, before filing lawsuit still advisable follow with phone call letter inquiring about the status the appeal.
Throughout this whole process important have the advice attorney who familiar
with FOIA, because unexpected twists and turns may occur. Hopefully, the requester will able avoid litigation and able obtain the requested records without resorting the court
system. However, requester has gone through all administrative channels and still receives unsatisfactory response, the courts are option.
Chapter Sample FOIA Request Letter
FOIA Officer
Re: Freedom Information Act Request
Dear Sir/Madam:
Pursuant the Freedom Information Act U.S.C. 552), [Requester Name] requests that
the [Agency] produce all correspondence, memoranda, documents, reports, records, statements,
audits, lists names, applications, diskettes, letters, expense logs and receipts, calendar diary
logs, facsimile logs, telephone records, call sheets, tape recordings, video/movie recordings,
notes, examinations, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, drawings, charts,
photographs, electronic mail, and other documents and things that refer relate the following any way, within twenty (20) business days: [Insert detailed information about documents
sought.] any responsive record portion thereof claimed exempt from production under FOIA,
sufficient identifying information (with respect each allegedly exempt record portion
thereof) must provided allow the assessment the propriety the claimed exemption.
Vaugh Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir 1973), cert denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1974). Additionally,
any reasonably segregable portion responsive record must provided after redaction any allegedly exempt material, the law requires. U.S.C. 552(b). order help determine status for purposes determining the applicability any fees,
you should know that [insert suitable description the requester and the purpose the
request]. willing pay fees the amount $___. the fees will exceed this amount,
please inform before fees are incurred. can contacted [include preferred method
communication], necessary discuss any aspect this request. look forward receiving the requested documents and full fee waiver within twenty (20)
business days.
[Telephone (optional)]
Chapter Sample FOIA Appeal Letter
FOIA Officer
Re: Appeal FOIA Request ###
Dear Sir/Madam: [Date], filed Freedom Information Act (FOIA) request with [Agency], requesting
[Describe requested documents.] response letter dated [Date] [Official, Title] denied request. [Insert detail from letter
about why the request was denied.]
This letter respectfully appeals the determination [Name Official]
The information requested under FOIA must disclosed because [Insert reason.] also appeal the decision charge for search and review costs. [Insert reason.]
[Telephone (optional)]
Chapter Sample Request Letter
VIA FACSIMILE (202) 555-1234 AND
CERTIFIEDMAIL No.: 1234 5678 9101 1121
Date Officer
Name Agency
Address Agency
Re: Privacy Act Request
Dear [PA Officer]:
Pursuant the Freedom Information Act, U.S.C. 552, and the Privacy Act, U.S.C. 
552a, seek access and copies all records about which [Agency Name] has its
possession within twenty (20) business days. [If seeking specific document, give much detail possible.] assist with your search for these records, providing the following additional information:
[Include full name, Social Security number, date and place birth. You may also provide
additional information such other names used former places residence.] any responsive record portion thereof claimed exempt from production under the
PA, sufficient identifying information (with respect each allegedly exempt record portion
thereof) must provided allow the assessment the propriety the claimed exemption.
Vaugh Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir 1973), cert denied, 415 U.S. 977 (1974). Additionally,
any reasonably segregable portion responsive record must provided after redaction any allegedly exempt material, the law requires. U.S.C. 552(b). reserve the right
appeal any decision withhold information. promise pay reasonable fees incurred the copying these documents the amount
[Specify dollar amount]. the estimated fees will greater than that amount, please contact before such expenses are incurred. you have any questions regarding this request, please contact [Insert Email Address
and/or Telephone Number]. Please send the documents to: [Specify address]. look forward receiving the requested documents within twenty (20) business days.
[Your Name]
Chapter Sample Appeal Letter
Date Officer
Re: Appeal Request
Dear Sir/Madam:
This appeal under the Privacy Act and the Freedom Information Act the denial
request for access records. [Date], requested access records under the Privacy Act 1974. request was assigned
the following identification number: ________. [Date], received response request letter signed [Name Official]. This
letter respectfully appeals the determination [Name Official].
The records withheld should disclosed because [Insert Reason]. This appeal also
being made under FOIA and any additional information that would disclosed under FOIA
should disclosed. can contacted [Insert Telephone Number and/or Email Address], between the hours
and __, there need discuss this appeal.
[Telephone (optional)]
Chapter FOIA and FAQs
What the Freedom Information Act?
The Freedom Information Act U.S.C. Section 552) (FOIA) was enacted
Congress 1966 order give the public the right obtain and access information
from federal government agencies. While FOIA does not require the government
create any documents regarding information request answer questions posed
request, does require the agency release any document, file other record that exists
pertaining your request. FOIA was amended 1974 force greater agency
compliance and again 1996 include electronic information.
What the Privacy Act?
The Privacy Act 1974 (PA) provides safeguards against the invasion privacy the
misuse records and applies personal information maintained agencies the
executive branch the federal government. The allows citizen learn how records
are collected, maintained, used and disseminated federal agencies; also allows
individuals access that information and seek correction inaccurate, incomplete
irrelevant information. Additionally, the Privacy Act provides safeguard against others
accessing information about you that could warrant invasion privacy. Agencies
subject the FOIA are also subject the Privacy Act.
Who eligible make FOIA request? FOIA request can made any individual, partnership, corporation, association
foreign government. Requests can also made behalf any person attorney
representative. Federal agencies are excluded from making FOIA requests; however,
states and state agencies may so.
Only United States citizens and legal permanent residents the United States are eligible make Privacy Act request. Therefore, nonresident foreign nationals may use the
FOIA request records about themselves.
How make request?
The first step making request doing research. Determine the information you are
seeking has already been made available. This information may available online
FOIA reading rooms, electronic research databases requesting the documents
from public interest groups. Your research will also inform you the key events and
decision-makers your topic, help you pinpoint documents and agencies your
requests, and keep you from requesting material extraneous your interest.
FOIA requests must made writing the agency that holds the records. The
letter should state that the request being made under FOIA and/or the PA, identify the
records that are being sought, and include the name and address the requester.
Inclusion telephone number can expedite the process providing means for the
agency quickly contact you. Fees vary with the status purpose the requester,
the letter should include the category which you belong commercial, educational,
media other well statement your willingness pay fees. Additionally, requests may require statement notarization verify identity. Check with
individual agencies for their policy.
Should make FOIA request?
The provisions the FOIA and overlap parts. The laws have differing procedures
and exemptions, resulting the ability information exempted under one law and
disclosable under the other. take maximum advantage the laws, both should
cited the request; however, requests made for information that does not relate solely
the requester may only made under FOIA. you have doubts about which laws
utilize, cite both the FOIA and when making information document request.
What kind information can request?
FOIA applies any federal agency records that are either created obtained
agency and under the agency control the time the request. Records can print electronic format, maps, photos, digital data, handwritten notes, and video and audio
The only records subject the Privacy Act are those maintained system records.
Under the law record includes most personal information maintained agency
about individual. record contains individually identifiable information, including,
but not limited to, information about education, financial transactions, medical history,
criminal history employment history. system records group records that
actually retrieved name, SSN other identifying number assigned individual.
Not all personal information kept system records; however, this information
accessible making FOIA request.
How much will cost make request?
FOIA requesters may have pay fees covering some all the costs processing
their requests, which can possibly include search and review costs and the cost
photocopies. Fees vary with the status purpose the requester. However, disclosure the requested information would substantially benefit the public interest, the laws
generally require waiver reduction such fees. Additionally, the cost
responding your request small that falls below certain level, most agencies
automatically waive assessment the fees.
Under the Privacy Act, fees may only charged for record-copying costs. fees are
charged for the cost search and review the records determine any applicable
exemptions. Many agencies will not charge fees for copying record, especially with
small files, and agency can waive fees they pose financial hardship.
How long will request take?
Once agency has received FOIA request, that agency has business days
respond the request. There are three appropriate responses: compliance with the
request; non-compliance and the reason for not doing so; and the request for extension not more than days due unusual circumstances.
Under the Privacy Act, there fixed time which the agency must respond;
however, good agency practice acknowledge receipt the request days and
provide the information requested days. many agencies FOIA and requests
are processed the same personnel and are attended the order which they are
What happens request denied?
Not all records are available released; some records may withheld protect
important government interests, such national security law enforcement.
agency determines will not comply with the request you have received adverse
response, you may appeal the decision. You must submit appeal postmarked within
days the denial letter. The agency required respond the appeal within
business days. the appeal denied, then the agency must inform you the provisions
for judicial review.
What kind information exempt under the Freedom Information Act?
The nine FOIA exemptions U.S.C. 552(b)(1)-(9)) are:
 records currently and properly classified the interest national security;
 records related solely internal personnel rules and practices, which, released,
would allow circumvention agency function;
 records protected another law that specifically exempts the information from
public release;
 trade secrets and commercial financial information obtained from private
source that would cause substantial competitive harm the source disclosed;
 internal records that are deliberative nature, are part the decision-making
process, and contain opinions and recommendations;
 records which, released, would result clearly unwarranted invasion
personal privacy;
 investigatory records information compiled for law enforcement purposes;
 records for the use any agency responsible for the regulation supervision
financial institutions; and
 records containing geological and geophysical information (including maps)
concerning wells.
What kind information exempt under the Privacy Act?
The Privacy Act contains similar exemptions. They are:
 (d)(5) information compiled anticipation civil actions proceedings,
including administrative hearings;
 (j)(1) records maintained the CIA;
 (j)(2) records maintained agency which performs its principal function any
activity pertaining the enforcement criminal laws and which consists
identifying data compiled for the purpose criminal investigation, associated
with identifiable individual; reports identifiable individual compiled
any stage the process enforcement criminal laws;
 (k)(1) records relating the national defense foreign policy and are properly
(k)(2) records that are investigatory and compiled for law enforcement purposes;
(k)(3) records pertaining the protection the President the United States;
(k)(4) records that are required statute maintained and used solely
statistical records;
(k)(5) records that are investigatory and used for employee contractor suitability
(k)(6) records that are federal service exam test materials;
(k)(7) records that are armed services promotion evaluation materials.
Chapter References and Informational Links
Text the FOIA
Text the Privacy Act
Citizen Guide FOIA
 Your Right Federal Records 
Justice Dept. FOIA Guide
Justice Dept. Privacy Act Overview
Justice Dept. FOIA Electronic Reading Room
State-by-State Open Records/FOIA Resource
FOIA Contacts Federal Agencies
Justice Dept. FOIA Policy Manual
Annual FOIA Reports Federal Agencies
Justice Dept. FOIA Post (web updates)
Department Defense FOIA Handbook