Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act

DOJ Guide to the FOIA

The United States Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act is a comprehensive legal treatise on the FOIA. The Guide includes detailed discussions of the FOIA’s procedural requirements, nine exemptions, and litigation considerations. Each section contains a detailed analysis of the key judicial opinions issued on the FOIA.

Each chapter of the Guide will be updated by OIP on a rolling basis as significant new developments in FOIA occur.  OIP’s Court Decisions page also provides a regularly updated review of significant FOIA decisions with detailed summaries searchable by key terms and topical categories.

Text of the FOIA

All sections are available as Portable Document Format files, which may be viewed with a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader.


Introduction ​(posted February 14, 2020)

Structure of the FOIA​ (page 2)
History of the FOIA ​​(page 6)

Proactive Disclosures (posted August 4, 2020)

Procedural Requirements (posted August 20, 2021)

OPEN Government Act (page 1)
FOIA Improvement Act (page 3)
Entities Subject to the FOIA (page 5)
“Agency Records” (page 11)
FOIA Requesters (page 19)
Proper FOIA Requests (page 25)
Time Limits (page 34)
Expedited Processing (page 39)
Searching for Responsive Records (page 42)
“Reasonably Segregable” Obligation (page 62)
Consultations and Referrals (page 68)
Responding to FOIA Requests (page 72)
Administrative Appeals (page 79)

Fees and Fee Waivers (posted September 16, 2020)

Introduction (page 1)
Fees (page 1)
Requester Categories (page 2)
Types of Fees (page 9)
Fee Restrictions (page 13)
Fee Waivers (page 21)

Exemption 1 (posted March 4, 2021)

Exemption 2 ​(posted September 29, 2020)


Exemption 3 (posted June 2, 2021)

 Exemption 4 (posted December 16, 2021)

Exemption 5 (posted August 26, 2019)

Exemption 6 (updated August 19, 2022)

Threshold: Personnel, Medical and Similar Files (page 4)
Privacy Interest (page 6)
Privacy Interest, Derivative Privacy Invasion (page 13)
Privacy Interest, Government Correspondents (page 16)
Privacy Interest, Federal Employees (page 19)
Privacy Interest, Information in the Public Domain and Practical Obscurity (page 26)
Privacy Interest, Corporations and Business Relations (page 33)
Privacy Interest, Life Status (page 36)
Privacy Interest, Public Figures (page 39)
Privacy Interest, Privacy Assurances and Waivers (page 40)
Privacy Interest, Interest in Disclosure (page 41)
FOIA Public Interest (page 43)
FOIA Public Interest, Assigning a Weight to the FOIA Public Interest (page 51)
FOIA Public Interest, Nexus Between the Requested Information and the Public Interest (page 53)
FOIA Public Interest, Derivative Use of the Information (page 59)
FOIA Public Interest, Public Servant Accountability (page 63)
FOIA Public Interest, Evidentiary Showing (page 68)
Balancing a Privacy Interest in Nondisclosure Against a Public Interest in Release (page 73)
Balancing a Privacy Interest in Nondisclosure Against a Public Interest in Release, Name and Home Address (page 78)
Redacting Identifying Information (page 81)
"Glomar" Responses (page 85)

Exemption 7(posted January 27, 2022)


Exemption 7(A) (posted March 22, 2022)

Introduction (page 1)
Two-Part Test (page 1)
Duration (page 3)

 Exemption 7(B)​  (posted June 3, 2021)

Exemption 7(C) (posted March 29, 2022)

Exemption 7(D) (posted September 9, 2022)

Exemption 7(E)​ (posted October 27, 2022)


Exemption 7(F)​ (posted December 16, 2021)

Exemption 8(posted August 26, 2022)

Exemption 9 (posted December 1, 2021)

Exclusions ​(posted June 3, 2022)

​           The (c)(1) Exclusion ​​(page 2)
           The (c)(2) Exclusion​ (page 7)
           The (c)(3) Exclusion​ (page 12)
           Procedural Considerations​ (page 14)

Waiver and Discretionary Disclosure (posted August 31, 2022)

           Waiver​ (page 1)
           Discretionary Disclosure​ (page 18)

Litigation Considerations (posted September 25, 2019)


Attorney Fees (updated October 14, 2022)


Reverse FOIA (updated January 27, 2023)


Text of the Freedom of Information Act

Text of the Attorney General's Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act

Updated January 27, 2023

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