The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law, enacted in 1966, that makes government information accessible to the public.
FOIA applies to all 15 departments and 73 other federal agencies in the executive branch of the U.S. government.
It does not apply to the president, Congress or the courts.
It does not apply to state governments (all 50 states, and many cities, have their own freedom-of-information laws).
The act identifies what information agencies must publish as a matter of course, both in print and electronically on their Web sites. It also grants citizens the right to request copies of records not normally distributed to the public, and sets standards for determining which records must be made available.
It specifies what records may be withheld from disclosure by agency discretion through its nine exemptions and three exclusions.
FOIA outlines the procedures individuals should follow for requesting records and for appealing the decision if information is denied. It also establishes the right to judicial remedies if an agency does not comply with the law.
- FOIA/Privacy Act Reference Guide – Source: State Department
- Text of the Freedom of Information Act as amended in 2007 (FOIA)
- “A Citizen’s Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records.” Source: Committee on Government Reform and published by the Government Printing Office (Report 108-172)
- “How to Use the Federal FOI Act.” Source: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
- First Amendment Center – Tips for filing FOIA requests