The Office of Information Policy (OIP) was originally established as the Freedom of Information Committee in the Office of Legal Counsel on December 8, 1969, to advise and assist agencies in administering the Freedom of Information Act. With the expansion of FOIA-related matters during the 1970s, the Department created the Office of Information Law and Policy in 1978 and the functions of the Freedom of Information Committee were integrated into this new office. In 1981 the Office of Information Law and Policy was made part of the newly formed Office of Legal Policy. It then merged with the Office of Privacy and Information Appeals and became the Office of Information and Privacy. The Office of Information and Privacy remained a part of the Office of Legal Policy until May 14, 1993, when Attorney General Janet Reno directed the establishment of OIP as an independent component of the Department of Justice reporting directly to the Associate Attorney General. The Office was subsequently renamed the Office of Information Policy on August 18, 2008.
The mission of OIP is to provide legal and policy advice to all agencies on administration of the FOIA. OIP is responsible for encouraging agency compliance with the law and for overseeing agency implementation of it. Agencies are required by the FOIA to report to the Attorney General each year on their performance in implementing the law. OIP establishes the reporting requirements and conducts assessments of agency progress. OIP also adjudicates, on behalf of the Department of Justice, administrative appeals brought under the FOIA, processes initial requests made to the Senior Leadership Offices, and handles the defense of certain FOIA litigation cases.
The major functions of OIP are to:
- Manage and oversee on behalf of the Department of Justice the statutory responsibility of encouraging agency compliance with the FOIA.
- Develop and issue policy guidance to all Federal agencies on the proper implementation of the FOIA.
- Publish the Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, which is a comprehensive legal treatise addressing all aspects of the FOIA.
- Provide legal and policy advice to any agency seeking assistance in complying with the FOIA.
- Maintain FOIA.gov which is a comprehensive public resource for government-wide FOIA information and data. Information on agency compliance is displayed graphically in open format to allow the public to compare and contrast agency FOIA data. Significant FOIA releases are highlighted and educational information provided so the public understands how the FOIA works and what to expect when they make a request.
- Maintain OIP's website that is designed to be an all-inclusive FOIA website for agencies, as well as useful to the public, and includes OIP guidance, the Director’s FOIA Post blog and Twitter account, FOIA resources, reports, training opportunities, summaries of court decisions, a portal for making requests electronically for records of the Department’s senior leadership offices, OIP's FOIA Library, and Department of Justice FOIA contacts.
- Provide extensive government wide training programs, presentations and briefings on a variety of subjects related to FOIA compliance and implementation.
- Provide forums and platforms for public participation and collaboration on particular areas of interest to the open government community.
- Develop and issue guidance to agencies for preparation of their Annual FOIA Reports and Chief FOIA Officer Reports.
- Compile the Department’s Annual FOIA Report and the Department's Chief FOIA Officer Report.
- Review all agencies' Annual FOIA Reports and Chief FOIA Officer Reports for compliance with reporting guidelines and make them available at a single electronic access point.
- Prepare government wide summaries of both reports and assessments of agency progress.
- Compile the Department's FOIA Litigation and Compliance Report which describes the Department’s efforts to encourage agency compliance with the FOIA and includes lists of newly filed FOIA litigation cases.
- Adjudicate administrative appeals brought under the FOIA concerning actions taken by the Department of Justice’s components.
- Process initial FOIA requests on behalf of the Senior Leadership Offices of the Department of Justice, including the Offices of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Associate Attorney General, as well as the Offices of Legislative Affairs, Public Affairs and Legal Policy.
- Defend certain FOIA matters in litigation.
- Provide staff support for the Department Review Committee, which reviews Department of Justice records containing classified information.