Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (Section 552 of Title 5, Part I, Chapter 5, Subchapter II of the U.S. Code), which was enacted in 1966, provides the American people with the legal right to obtain access to federal agency records, except where such records are exempted or excluded from disclosure. Federal agencies are required to publish in the Federal Register the methods by which citizens may request agency information. (To search the Federal Register, go to the advanced search, add "Federal Register" to "Selected Collections," and type your search.) FOIA also requires that agencies will make available final opinions, orders, statements of policy, and administrative materials which have not been published in the Federal Register but which nonetheless affect the public. FOIA does not apply to Congress, the courts, the President's personal staff and office, and certain advisory offices of the White House. The full-text of FOIA, including amendments made to the statute by the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996, is available from the Department of Justice. All newly enacted provisions are in bold type.

Guides to FOIA

A Citizen's Guide On Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records PDF document (Congress, Committee on Government Reform, March 1999)
Primarily intended to help the general public, this Guide is intended to serve as a general introduction to the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act. The report explains how to use the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 and includes a complete explanation of the basics of the two laws. It offers neither a comprehensive explanation of the details of these acts nor an analysis of case law. Instead, the Guide enables those who are unfamiliar with the laws to understand the process and to make a request. In addition, the complete text of each law is included in an appendix.
Guide to the Freedom of Information Act (Department of Justice)
The DoJ's Guide to the FOIA includes detailed contents for chapters such as proactive disclosures, procedural requirements, fees and fee waivers, exemptions, and litigation considerations.
Freedom of Information Act Reference Guide, Revised January 2017 (Justice Dept.)
This Reference Guide is designed to familiarize you with the specific procedures for making a FOIA request to the Department of Justice. This guide also includes descriptions of the types of records maintained by different parts of the Department, some of which are available through means other than the FOIA.
Your Right to Federal Records: Questions and Answers on the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act PDF document (General Services Administration and Justice Dept.)
Scroll page for PDF booklet. Answers to frequently asked questions about FOIA and the Privacy Act. Includes which agencies are covered, what the exemptions and exclusions are, how to find records, who to contact, what a sample request looks like, what costs to expect, how long a request should take, how to appeal a denial, etc.
FOIA Update (Justice Dept., 1979-2000)
A quarterly newsletter designed to help agencies administer FOIA requests in efficient and satisfactory ways. Issues from vol. 1, no. 1 (Autumn, 1979) through vol. 20, no. 1 [2000] are available. Related information is continued by the online blog FOIA Post.

Department FOIA Sites

List of Sites for FOIA requests, by Department
Dept. FOIA SitesSelected Electronic Reading RoomsContact Information
Agriculture Electronic Reading Room (Ag) Agency Contacts
Commerce DoC FOIA Electronic Library,
Census Bureau FOIA Library
To Submit a Request
Defense Office of the Secretary of Defense/Joint Staff Electronic Reading Room Electronic FOIA Requests
Air Force  
Defense Intelligence Agency  
Marine Corps Points of Contact (USMC)
National Security Agency To Submit an FOIA Request
Education Electronic FOIA Reading Room FOIA Contacts (Education)
Energy Electronic Reading Room (Energy) FOIA Contacts (Energy)
Health and Human Services Electronic Reading Room (HHR),
Food and Drug Administration FOIA,
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
FOIA Contacts (HHS)
Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,
Transportation Security Administration,
U.S. Customs And Border Protection
Housing and Urban Development FOIA Reading Room FOIA Requests for HUD
Interior Electronic Reading Room (Interior) FOIA Contacts (Interior)
Justice Reading Rooms (Justice),
Federal Bureau of Investigation
FOIA Contacts (Justice)
Labor Reading Room FOIA Contacts Labor
State Declassified/Released Document Collections Making a FOIA Request
Transportation Electronic Reading Rooms DOT Organizations and FOIA Contacts
Treasury Electronic Reading Room (Treasury),
Internal Revenue Service
Contacts (IRS)
Veterans Affairs FOIA Library FOIA Requests for Veterans Affairs

Selected Agencies

Other Agency FOIA Sites

FOIA Contacts at Federal Agencies (Justice Dept.)
A list of FOIA contacts in all federal agencies, organized by agency name.


Freedom of Information Act Resources (LLSDC)
Includes links to FOI Acts and Legislative Histories, U.S. Department of Justice Resources, Other Government Resources, Non-Government Resources, and Recent FOIA Court Decisions. From the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, DC.