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Freedom of Information Act: Home

FOIA Quick Facts

  • Originally enacted as Public Law 89-487.
  • Signed into law on July 4, 1966 by President Johnson.
  • Any individual can submit a request for a record from any federal agency.
  • Agencies publish yearly statistical reports on the requests received and processed.
  • Many websites exst for citizens to access FOIA-related data and documents.





Intro to FOIA Resources

Reference Guide

- Info on how to make a FOIA request, associated fees, response times, and helpful reference materials.

Court Cases

- Compilation of FOIA-related court decisions.

FOIA Training/Education Events

- List of public FOIA training events and downloadable training materials.

House Report on FOIA (2005)

- This House report outlines the steps for creating a FOIA request and how the government processes them.

Introduction to FOIA

FOIA refers to federal legislation that allows individuals to request access to records and materials produced by any federal agency. FOIA mandates that popular record requests must be automatically released to the public.


Freedom of Information Act

  • The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted as Public Law 89-487 on July 4, 1966. 5 USC § 552 was also created by this act. FOIA requires all agencies to receive and process requests for information. Individuals may make a request for information without providing justification or reason.
  • Although all agencies must comply and release the information about FOIA requests received throughout the year, there is no standardized way for all agencies to do this. Outside of the broad requirement of submitting “meta-level” statistics for such things like how many FOIA requests were received, how many were processed, and how many were denied, there is no general requirement for how the de-classified materials should be disseminated to the public. Therefore, each agency has significant autonomy in deciding how this information is provided to the public.
  • There are exemptions that permit agencies to deny a request on the grounds that disclosure would be harmful in some aspect. Currently, there are nine exemptions and three additional exemptions pertaining to law enforcement. The Department of Justice has some information about these exexmptions.


Electronic Freedom of Information Act of 1996

  • In 1996, the original FOIA act was amended to take into account the goverment's growing use of electronic and computerized records. The 1996 bill was entitled “Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996," commonly referred to as "eFOIA." It was enacted as Public Law 104-231. The eFOIA legislation included provisions regarding electronic information and how federal agencies should distribute digital records. eFOIA required federal agencies to release many types of documents in digital format or online for the public.


This research guide was created by Nicholas Janning, Government Documents & Reference Intern, 2013.

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