About the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
- The Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552 (pdf)
- Executive Office of the President (EOP) entities subject to and exempt from the FOIA
- FOIA Definitions
- FOIA Exemptions and Exclusions
FOIA at OSTP
- OSTP FOIA Handbook - March 2013 (pdf)
- Final Rule: OSTP’s Implementation of FOIA
- OSTP's Proposed Rulemaking and Comments on implementation of FOIA, 77 Fed. Reg. 27151
- OSTP's Designation of a Chief FOIA Officer (pdf)
- Council on Environmental Quality
- Office of Management and Budget
- Office of National Drug Control Policy
- Office of Science and Technology Policy
- United States Trade Representative
A FOIA request is generally a request for access to records concerning a third party, an organization, or a particular topic of interest.
- Initial Request. A request to a Federal agency for access to records under the Freedom of Information Act.
- Appeal. A request to a Federal agency asking that it review at a higher administrative level a full denial or partial denial of access to records under the Freedom of Information Act, or any other FOIA determination such as a matter pertaining to fees.
- Processed Request or Appeal. Request or appeal for which an agency has taken a final action on the request or the appeal in all respects.
- Expedited Processing. An agency will process a FOIA request on an expedited basis when a request has shown an exceptional need or urgency for the records which warrants prioritization of his or her request over other requests that were made earlier.
- Simple Request. A FOIA request that an agency, using multi-track processing, places in its fastest (non-expedited) track based on the volume and/or simplicity of records requested.
- Complex Request. A FOIA request that an agency, using multi-track processing, places in a slower track based on the volume and/or complexity of records requested.
- Grant. An agency decision to disclose all records in full in response to a FOIA request.
- Partial Grant. An agency decision to disclose a record in part in response to a FOIA request, deleting information determined to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions; or a decision to disclose some records in their entireties, but to withhold others in whole or in part.
- Denial. An agency decision not to release any part of a record or records in response to a FOIA request because all the information in the requested records is determined by the agency to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions, or for some procedural reason (because no record is located in response to a FOIA request).
- Time Limits. The time period in the Freedom of Information Act for an agency to respond to a FOIA request (ordinarily 20 working days from proper receipt of a "perfected" FOIA request).
- "Perfected" Request. A FOIA request for records which adequately describes the records sought, which has been received the FOIA office of the agency or agency component in possession of the records, and for which there is no remaining question about the payment of applicable fees.
- Exemption 3 Statute. A separate Federal statute prohibiting the disclosure of a certain type of information and authorizing its withholding under FOIA subsection (b)(3).
- Median Number. The middle, not average, number. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the median number is 7.
- Average Number. The number obtained by dividing the sum of a group of numbers by the quantity of numbers in the group. For example, of 3, 7 and 14, the average number is 8.
FOIA provides access to all responsive Federal agency records, or portions of those records, except to the extent those records are protected by any of the FOIA's nine exemptions or three law enforcement exclusions. The three exclusions pertain to especially sensitive law enforcement and national security matters.
- Exemptions. The FOIA's nine exemptions authorize federal agencies to withhold information covering: (1) classified national defense and foreign relations information; (2) internal agency rules and practices; (3) information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law; (4) trade secrets and other confidential commercial or financial information; (5) inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges; (6) information involving matters of personal privacy; (7) records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of those records (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of and/or information provided by a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual; (8) information relating to the supervision of financial institutions; and (9) geological information on wells.
- Exclusions. Congress also provided special protection in the FOIA for three narrow categories of law enforcement and national security records. The provisions protecting those records are known as “exclusions.” The first exclusion protects the existence of an ongoing criminal law enforcement investigation when the subject of the investigation is unaware that it is pending and disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings. The second exclusion is limited to criminal law enforcement agencies and protects the existence of informant records when the informant’s status has not been officially confirmed. The third exclusion is limited to the FBI and protects the existence of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, or international terrorism records when the existence of such records is classified. Records falling within an exclusion are not subject to the requirements of the FOIA.