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.

On June 30, 2016, President Obama signed into law the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 which which contains several substantive and procedural amendments to the FOIA as well as new reporting requirements for agencies. Until all relevant Guide chapters have been updated to reflect these changes, you can read the text of the FOIA as amended and a summary of the recent amendments through the links below. 

Text of the FOIA (showing changes made by the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016)

OIP Summary of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016

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


Introduction ​(posted March 7, 2019)

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

Proactive Disclosures (posted April 11, 2019)

Procedural Requirements (updated September 4, 2013)


Fees and Fee Waivers (posted August 23, 2013)

Fees (page 2)
Requester Categories (page 2)
Types of Fees (page 10)
Fee Restrictions (page 13)
Fee Waivers (page 22)

Exemption 1 (posted August 7, 2013)


Exemption 2 (posted March 05, 2013)


Exemption 3 (updated August 13, 2015)

Exemption 4 (posted August 10, 2009)

Exemption 5 (updated May 7, 2014)


Exemption 6 (posted January 10, 2014)

Exemption 7 (posted May 21, 2014)


Exemption 7(A) (posted August 10, 2009)


Exemption 7(B) (updated March 21, 2019)

Exemption 7(C) (posted December 9, 2013)

Exemption 7(D) (posted September 4, 2013)

Exemption 7(E) (posted April 23, 2013)


Exemption 7(F) (updated August 13, 2015)

Exemption 8 (posted April 21, 2015)

Exemption 9 (posted November 20, 2013)

Exclusions ​(updated 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)

Discretionary Disclosure (Posted December 8, 2014)

Waiver (Posted December 8, 2014)

Litigation Considerations (posted November 26, 2013)


Attorney Fees (updated January 29, 2015)


Reverse FOIA (Posted August 10, 2009)


Text of the Freedom of Information Act

Text of the President's Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act

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

Updated April 11, 2019

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