FOIA Resources

  President's FOIA Memorandum and Attorney General FOIA Guidelines | FOIA Counselor Service | FOIA Compliance Inquiries | FOIA Statute | Exemption 3 Statutes | FOIA Fee Guidance | Your Right to Federal Records

President's FOIA Memorandum and Attorney General FOIA Guidelines

Issued on his first full day in Office, President Obama’s FOIA Memorandum has a clear message: “In the face of doubt, openness prevails.”  The President called on agencies to respond to FOIA requests in “a spirit of cooperation” and emphasized the need for timeliness, use of technology, and proactive disclosures in FOIA administration.  The President directed the Attorney General to issue new guidelines governing the FOIA that reaffirm the government’s commitment to accountability and transparency.

Issued during Sunshine Week in March of 2009, the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines directed agencies to apply a presumption of openness in administering the FOIA and strongly encouraged agencies to make discretionary disclosures.  The Guidelines also emphasized that FOIA is an agency-wide responsibility and highlighted the key roles played by both FOIA professionals and agency Chief FOIA Officers, who now must report each year to the Department of Justice. The Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines also establish a new foreseeable harm standard.  The Department “will defend a denial of a FOIA request only if (1) the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the statutory exemptions, or (2) disclosure is prohibited by law.”

FOIA Counselor Service

OIP provides confidential legal advice and policy guidance to FOIA personnel across the government to aid in agency decision-making on issues pertaining to the FOIA or implementation of the President’s FOIA Memorandum and the Department of Justice’s 2009 FOIA Guidelines. The agencies that contact OIP must ultimately make their own determination on the FOIA question at issue. OIP does not provide legal advice to private persons. You may contact an OIP FOIA Counselor at (202) 514-FOIA (3642).

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FOIA Compliance Inquiries

As part of its oversight and guidance responsibilities, OIP reviews inquiries made by the public raising issues regarding agencies' compliance with the FOIA statute and the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines.  Compliance inquires may be submitted in writing to OIP by mail, e-mail or fax.

Office of Information Policy (OIP)
U.S. Department of Justice
Suite 11050
1425 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Fax: (202) 514-1009

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FOIA Statute

The FOIA was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.  Since that time, Congress has regularly updated the original statute through legislative amendments.  Most recently, Congress passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, which contains several substantive and procedural amendments to the FOIA as well as new reporting requirements for agencies. You can read the text of the FOIA and summaries on recent amendments to the FOIA, as well as learn about the FOIA's legislative history 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 (Training Slides)

OIP Summary of the OPEN FOIA Act of 2009

OIP Summary of the OPEN Government Act of 2007

FOIA Legislative Materials

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Exemption 3 Statutes

One provision of the FOIA, known as Exemption 3, provides for the withholding of records when disclosure is prohibited by another federal law.  To assist agencies in properly processing FOIA requests and to aid requesters in understanding the scope of Exemption 3, OIP has compiled a list of statutes that courts have found to qualify under Exemption 3.

Statutes Found to Qualify Under Exemption 3 of the FOIA

Additionally, OIP has compiled a list of statutes used by federal departments and agencies in conjunction with Exemption 3, as reported in agency fiscal year Annual FOIA Reports.

Statutes used in Annual FOIA Reports in conjunction with Exemption 3 of the FOIA

FY 2015 (CSV) | FY 2014 (CSV) | FY 2013 (CSV) | FY 2012 (CSV) | FY 2011 (CSV
FY 2010 (CSV)

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FOIA Fee Guidelines

FOIA Fee Guidelines

Issued in 1987 by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the FOIA Fee Guidelines [formally known as the Uniform Freedom of Information Act Fee Schedule and Guidelines] provide a uniform schedule of fees for agencies to follow when promulgating their FOIA fee regulations. The OMB Fee Guidelines provide general principles for how agencies should set fee schedules and make fee determinations, include definitions of statutory fee terms, and discuss the FOIA statute’s fee provisions in greater, authoritative detail.

Under the FOIA, each agency is required to publish regulations "specifying the schedule of fees" applicable to processing requests and must conform its schedule to the guidelines promulgated by OMB. Anyone with a FOIA fee (as opposed to fee waiver) question should consult the FOIA statute in conjunction with OMB's Fee Guidelines and the appropriate agency's FOIA regulations for the records at issue. Agency personnel should attempt to resolve such fee questions by consulting first with their FOIA officers. Whenever fee questions cannot be resolved in that way, agency FOIA officers should direct their questions to OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Information Policy Branch, at (202) 395-6466.

OIP Fee Waiver Guidance and Reference Materials

OIP has issued guidance on the FOIA's fee waiver provisions and regularly provides training to agency personnel on FOIA fees and fee waivers. Agency FOIA personnel with questions on the FOIA's fee waiver provisions can contact the OIP FOIA Counselor Service at (202) 514-FOIA (3642).

Fee Waiver Policy Guidance
OIP Training Slides on Fee and Fee Waivers
Department of Justice Guide to the FOIA (2013 edition): Fees and Fee Waivers

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Your Right to Federal Records

A joint publication of the Department of Justice, Office of Management and Budget, and General Services Administration, Your Right to Federal Records is the federal government’s general public information brochure on access to federal agency information.  The brochure provides guidance about using the FOIA and the Privacy Act in a clear and easy to understand format.

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Updated January 10, 2017