What is the Freedom of Information Act?
Enacted in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that requires federal government agencies to make agency information available for public inspection and copying. It also gives you the ability to legally enforce your rights to this information.
Who can make a request?
Just about anyone can file a FOIA request, even foreigners. FOIA allows “any person” to submit a FOIA request including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, associations, corporations, and other entities.
What information can be requested?
You can request just about any information, however, there are a series of exemptions that the government can use to not release information. Some of these exemptions include:
- National security information
- Internal agency personnel rules and practices
- Confidential business information
- Personal privacy
- Communications subject to the deliberative agency process, litigation, and other privileges
- Certain law enforcement records
Beyond these, and a few other exemptions, you can request any information about federal agency activities, including information about yourself.
How do I file a FOIA request?
Generally, the process is quite easy and no special forms are required. All you need to do is put the request in writing, reasonably describe the information that you are seeking, and make sure that you are following the specific agency rules for submitting a FOIA request.