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 February 14, 2020)

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

Proactive Disclosures (posted August 4, 2020)

Procedural Requirements (posted September 4, 2019)


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 August 20, 2019)

​Exemption 4​ (posted October 9, 2019)

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 May 24, 2019)


Exemption 7(A) (posted August 21, 2019)

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

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

Exemption 7(C) (posted October 4, 2019)

Exemption 7(D) (posted May 24, 2019)

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


Exemption 7(F)​ (posted May 16, 2019)

Exemption 8(posted May 22, 2019)

Exemption 9 ​(posted August 26, 2019)

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 4, 2021

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