The United States Department of Justice Department of Justice Seal The United States Department of Justice
Search Archive
The Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act (2009 Edition)
The 2009 Edition of the DOJ Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, surrounded by previous editions of the Guide.

The United States Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act (2009 edition) is a comprehensive legal treatise of the FOIA's procedural requirements, exemptions, and litigation considerations. It contains a detailed analysis of the key judicial opinions issued on the FOIA. The Guide is prepared and updated by the staff of OIP. Any inquiry about the points addressed in the Guide should be made to OIP through its FOIA Counselor Service, at (202) 514-FOIA (3642).


  • Introduction (PDF)
    • Structure of the FOIA
    • History of the FOIA
  • Proactive Disclosures (PDF)
    • Subsection (a)(2): Making Records Available for Public Inspection
    • Categories of Records Required to be Disclosed Proactively
    • Disclosing Records Proactively to Achieve Transparency
    • Electronic Availability of Proactive Disclosures
    • Indexing Proactive Disclosures
  • Procedural Requirements (PDF)
    • President Obama's FOIA Memorandum & Attorney General Holder's FOIA Guidelines
    • OPEN Government Act
    • Entities Subject to the FOIA
    • "Agency Records"
    • FOIA Requesters
    • Proper FOIA Requests
    • Time Limits
    • Expedited Processing
    • Searching for Responsive Records
    • "Reasonably Segregable" Obligation
    • Referrals and Consultations
    • Responding to FOIA Requests
    • Administrative Appeals
  • Fees and Fee Waivers (PDF)
    • Introduction
    • Fees
    • Requester Categories
    • Types of Fees
    • Fee Restrictions
    • Fee Waivers
  • Exemption 1 (PDF)
    • Standard of Review
    • Deference to Agency Expertise
    • In Camera Submissions and Adequate Public Record
    • Waiver of Exemption Protection
    • Executive Order 12,958, as Amended
    • Duration of Classification and Declassification
    • Glomar Response and Mosaic Approach
    • Exclusion Considerations
  • Exemption 2 (PDF)
    On March 7, 2011, the Supreme Court significantly narrowed the scope of Exemption 2 in Milner v. Department of the Navy. OIPís Guidance on Exemption 2 in the wake of Milner explains the new parameters of Exemption 2.
    • Initial Considerations
    • "Low 2": Trivial Matters
    • "High 2": Risk of Circumvention
    • Homeland Security-Related Information
  • Exemption 3 (PDF)
    • Initial Considerations
    • Statutes Not Delineated as "Subpart (A)" or "Subpart (B)"
    • Subpart (A) Statutes
    • Subpart (B) Statutes
    • Statutes Satisfying Both Subpart (A) and Subpart (B)
    • Tax Return Information
    • FOIA-Specific Nondisclosure Statutes
    • Nondisclosure Results Under Appropriations Acts
    • "Operational Files" Provisions
    • Statutes Found Not to Qualify Under Exemption 3
  • Exemption 4 (PDF)
    • Trade Secrets
    • Commercial or Financial Information
    • Obtained from a "Person"
    • "Confidential" Information
    • The Critical Mass Decision
    • Applying Critical Mass
    • Impairment Prong of National Parks
    • Competitive Harm Prong of National Parks
    • Third Prong of National Parks
    • Privileged Information
    • Interrelation with the Trade Secrets Act
  • Exemption 5 (PDF)
    • "Inter-Agency or Intra-Agency" Threshold Requirement
    • Deliberative Process Privilege
    • Attorney Work-Product Privilege
    • Attorney-Client Privilege
    • Other Privileges
  • Exemption 6 (PDF)
    • Introduction
    • Threshold: Personnel, Medical, and Similar Files
    • Privacy Interest
    • Public Interest
    • Balancing Process
    • Balancing Process for Names & Addresses
    • Partial Disclosures
  • Exemption 7 (PDF)
    • Introduction
    • "Compiled" for Law Enforcement Purposes
    • "Law Enforcement Purpose"
    • Types of Law Enforcement
    • Personnel Actions v. Law Enforcement Activity
    • Mixed-Function Agencies
    • Criminal Law Enforcement Agencies and Deference
  • Exemption 7(A) (PDF)
    • Introduction
    • Two-Part Test
    • Duration
    • Related Proceedings
    • Types of Law Enforcement Proceedings
    • Deference
    • Generic Categories
    • Adequate Descriptions of Categories
    • Descriptions of Harm
    • Changes in Circumstances
    • Post-Maydak Rulings
    • Time Frame for Determining Exemption 7(A) Applicability
    • Exclusion Considerations
  • Exemption 7(C) (PDF)
    • Privacy Considerations
    • Public Interest
    • Balancing Process
    • The "Glomar" Response
  • Exemption 7(D) (PDF)
    • Introduction
    • Express Confidentiality
    • Implied Confidentiality
    • Information Eligible for Protection
    • Waiver of Confidentiality
    • Exclusion Considerations
  • Exemption 7(E) (PDF)
    • Techniques and Procedures
    • Guidelines for Law Enforcement Investigations and Prosecutions
  • Exclusions (PDF)
    • The (c)(1) Exclusion
    • The (c)(2) Exclusion
    • The (c)(3) Exclusion
    • Procedural Considerations
  • Litigation Considerations (PDF)
    • Jurisdiction, Venue, and Other Preliminary Matters
    • Pleadings
    • Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
    • "Open America" Stays of Proceedings
    • Adequacy of Search
    • Mootness and Other Grounds for Dismissal
    • Vaughn Index
    • "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements
    • In Camera Inspection
    • Summary Judgment
    • Discovery
    • Waiver of Exemptions in Litigation
    • Referral to Special Counsel and Limitations on Filing Frivolous Suits
    • Considerations on Appeal
  • Attorney Fees (PDF)
    • Threshold Issues
    • Eligibility
    • Entitlement
    • Calculations
  • Reverse FOIA (PDF)
    • Standard of Review
    • Executive Order 12,600
Training and Outreach
Next Events
September 30, 2014
End of Fiscal Year 2014
October 15, 2014
For a full list of upcoming events, visit our Key Dates page.
To access DOJ documents that are posted online by OIP, please visit the FOIA Library.
For government-wide FOIA information including how to make a FOIA request to other federal agencies, please visit FOIA.GOV.
General Information Office of Information Policy
Melanie Ann Pustay
Office of Information Policy
(202) 514 - FOIA (3642)
Stay Connected YouTube Twitter Facebook Sign Up for E-Mail Updates Subscribe to News Feeds