Contracts & Legal

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal freedom of information law (5 U.S.C. § 552) that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures, and grants nine exemptions to the statute.

Website: 5 USC § 552 – Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings

Federal agencies shall make available for public inspection and copying:

  • Final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, as well as orders, made in the adjudication of cases;
  • Those statements of policy and interpretations which have been adopted by the agency and are not published in the Federal Register;
  • Administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public;
  • Copies of all records, regardless of form or format, which have been released to any person and which, because of the nature of their subject matter, the agency determines have become or are likely to become the subject of subsequent requests for substantially the same records; and
  • A general index of the records referred

The Nine (9) exemptions to the FOIA Act are:

  1. Exemption (b)(1) protects from disclosure national security information concerning the national defense or foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified in accordance with Executive Order 12958.
  2. Exemption (b)(2) exempts from mandatory disclosure records “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.”
  3. Exemption (b)(3) covers information “specifically exempted from disclosure by statute.”
  4. Exemption (b)(4) protects “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential.”
  5. Exemption (b)(5) protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party … in litigation with the agency.”
  6. Exemption (b)(6) permits the government to withhold all information about individuals in “personnel and medical files and similar files” when the disclosure of such information “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
  7. Exemption (b)(7) protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information:
    • could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings,
    • would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication,
    • could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,
    • could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source,
    • would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or
    • could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual;
  8. Exemption (b)(8) protects matter that are “contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.”
  9. Exemption (b)(9) protects “geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.”

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Updated: 6/1/2018

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