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 (posted October 4, 2019)

Threshold: Personnel, Medical and Similar Files (page 4)
Privacy Interest (page 6)
Practical Obscurity and Survivor Privacy (page 13)
Derivative Privacy Invasion (page 16)
Expectations of Privacy (page 20)
Federal Employees (page 23)
Information in the Public Domain (page 30)
Passage of Time (page 34)
Corporations and Business Relations (page 34)
Life Status (page 37)
Public Figures (page 39)
Privacy Assurances and Waivers (page 40)
Interest in Disclosure (page 41)
FOIA Public Interest (page 43)
Assigning a Weight to the FOIA Public Interest (page 49)
Nexus Between the Requested Information and the Public Interest (page 50)
Derivative Use of the Information (page 57)
Public Servant Accountability (page 60)
Evidentiary Showing (page 64)
Public Interest in Agency Compliance with Federal Statutes (page 68)
Balancing a Privacy Interest in Nondisclosure Against a Public Interest in Release (page 71)
Names and Home Addresses (page 76)
Redacting Identifying Information (page 79)
"Glomar" Responses (page 82)

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 May 24, 2019)

 Exemption 7(E)​ (posted May 14, 2019)


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

Exemption 8(posted May 22, 2019)

Exemption 9 (posted December 1, 2021)

Exclusions ​(posted April 4, 2019)

​           The (c)(1) Exclusion ​​(page 3)
           The (c)(2) Exclusion​ (page 7)
           The (c)(3) Exclusion​ (page 11)
           Procedural Considerations​ (page 13)

Waiver and Discretionary Disclosure (posted August 28, 2019)

           Waiver​ (page 1)
           Discretionary Disclosure​ (page 15)

Litigation Considerations (posted September 25, 2019)


Attorney Fees (updated October 4, 2019)


Reverse FOIA (posted October 9, 2019)


Text of the Freedom of Information Act

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

Updated March 29, 2022

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