Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

FOIA Annual Report 1999

National Archives And Records Administration (NARA)
Fiscal Year 1999

I. Report Information

For information about, or a paper copy of, this FOIA Report contact: Ramona Oliver, National Archives FOIA Officer, 8601 Adelphi Rd., College Park, MD 20740, 301-837-1750 or 301-837-0293 (fax). An electronic version of the report is available at:

II. Access to Records at the National Archives

For general information on access to records at the National Archives see our home page. The web site: describes our holdings of permanently valuable records; provides guides to the records; explains the procedures for gaining access to these records; gives directions to our facilities; and lists the hours when our research rooms are open. Specific information on making a FOIA request can be found in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reference Guide.

III. Definitions of Terms and Acronyms Used in the Report

  1. Specific terms used in the National Archives' FOIA Report
    1. FOIA/PA request: a request in which the requestor specifically cites either the Freedom of Information Act or the Privacy Act.
    2. NARA: the National Archives and Records Administration
  2. Basic terms, expressed in common terminology
    1. FOIA/PA request: Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act request. A FOIA request is generally a request for access to records concerning a third party, an organization, or a particular topic of interest. A Privacy Act request is a request for records concerning oneself; such requests are also treated as FOIA requests. (All requests made citing either Act, are included in this report.)
    2. Initial Request: a request to a federal agency for access to records under the Freedom of Information Act.
    3. Appeal: a request to a federal agency asking that it review at a higher administrative level a full denial or partial denial of access to records under the Freedom of Information Act, or any other FOIA determination such as a matter pertaining to fees.
    4. Processed Request or Appeal: a request or appeal for which an agency has taken a final action on the request or the appeal in all respects.
    5. Multi-track processing: a system in which simple requests requiring relatively minimal review are placed in one processing track and more voluminous and complex requests are placed in one or more other tracks. Requests in each track are processed on a first-in/first out basis. A requester who has an urgent need for records may request expedited processing (see below).
    6. Expedited processing: an agency will process a FOIA request on an expedited basis when a requester has shown an exceptional need or urgency for the records which warrants prioritization of his or her request over other requests that were made earlier.
    7. Simple request: a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in its fastest nonexpedited) track based on the volume and/or simplicity of records requested.
    8. Complex request: a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in a slower track based on the volume and/or complexity of records requested.
    9. Grant: an agency decision to disclose all records in full in response to a FOIA request.
    10. Partial grant: an agency decision to disclose a record in part in response to a FOIA request, deleting information determined to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions; or a decision to disclose some records in their entireties, but to withhold others in whole or in part.
    11. Denial: an agency decision not to release any part of a record or records in response to a FOIA request because all the information in the requested records is determined by the agency to be exempt under one or more of the FOIA's exemptions, or for some procedural reason (such as because no record is located in response to a FOIA request).
    12. Time limits: the time period in the Freedom of Information Act for an agency to respond to a FOIA request (ordinarily 20 working days from proper receipt of a "perfected" FOIA request).
    13. "Perfected" request: a FOIA request for records which adequately describes the records sought, which has been received by the FOIA office of the agency or agency component in possession of the records, and for which there is no remaining question about the payment of applicable fees.
    14. Exemption 3 statute: a separate federal statute prohibiting the disclosure of a certain type of information and authorizing its with holding under FOIA subsection (b)(3).
    15. Median number: the middle, not average, number. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the median number is 7.
    16. Average number: the number obtained by dividing the sum of a group of numbers by the quantity of numbers in the group. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the average number is 8.

IV. Exemption 3 Statutes

This section lists the exemption 3 statues invoked by the National Archives in responding to FOIA requests, the types of information withheld and court decisions supporting these withholdings.

  1. 50 U.S.C. § 403(d)(3): CIA intelligence sources and methods; CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159 (1985).
  2. F.R.Cr.P. 6(e): Grand jury information; Senate of Puerto Rico v. U.S. D.O.J., 823 F.2d 574 (D.C. Cir. 1987).
  3. 26 U.S.C. § 6103: Tax return information; Church of Scientologyv. IRS, 484 U.S.9 (1987).
  4. 50 U.S.C. § 403(g): Information pertaining to the organization, function or employees of CIA; Miner v. CIA, 88 F.3d 796 (9th Cir. 1996).
  5. 42 U.S.C. § 2162: Atomic energy information; Meeropol v. Meese, 790 F.2d 942 (D.C. Cir. 1986)
  6. 44 U.S.C. 2201 et. seq.: Presidential records

V. Initial FOIA/PA Access Requests

  1. Number of initial requests.
    1. Number of requests pending as of end of preceding fiscal year          1,111
    2. Number of requests received during current fiscal year                      7,022
    3. Number of requests processed during current fiscal year                    5,479
    4. Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year               1,869
  2. Disposition of initial requests.
    1. Number of total grants          4,778
    2. Number of partial grants          503
    3. Number of denials                   191
      1. number of times each FOIA exemption used
        1. Exemption 1          131
        2. Exemption 2           12
        3. Exemption 3           35
        4. Exemption 4           6
        5. Exemption 5           0
        6. Exemption 6           89
        7. Exemption 7(A)       0
        8. Exemption 7(B)       0
        9. Exemption 7(C)       11
        10. Exemption 7(D)       16
        11. Exemption 7(E)        22
        12. Exemption 7(F)        1
        13. Exemption 8             0
        14. Exemption 9              0
      2. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total)          666
        1. no records                 117
        2. referrals                      292
        3. request withdrawn          7
        4. fee-related reason           0
        5. records not reasonably described          74
        6. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason   45                             (request for Congressional records or legal advice)
        7. not an agency record     50
        8. duplicate request           15
        9. other (specify)               66      (44 U.S.C. 2201 et. seq.  requires withholding)

VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests

  1. Numbers of appeals.
    1. Number of appeals received during fiscal year          39
    2. Number of appeals processed during fiscal year        25
  2. Disposition of appeals.
    1. Number completely upheld          5
    2. Number partially reversed          20
    3. Number completely reversed        0
      1. number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per appeal)
        1. Exemption 1          5
        2. Exemption 2           4
        3. Exemption 3           0
        4. Exemption 4           4
        5. Exemption 5           0
        6. Exemption 6           2
        7. Exemption 7(A)      0
        8. Exemption 7(B)      0
        9. Exemption 7(C)      0
        10. Exemption 7(D)      0
        11. Exemption 7(E)       0
        12. Exemption 7(F)       0
        13. Exemption 8           0
        14. Exemption 9           0
    4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total)          10
      1. no records     0
      2. referrals         0
      3. request withdrawn          0
      4. fee-related reason           0
      5. records not reasonably described           0
      6. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason           10
      7. not an agency record       0
      8. duplicate request             0
      9. other (specify)                 0

VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests

  1. Median processing time for requests processed during the year.
    1. Simple Requests
      1. number of requests processed          6,145
      2. median number of days to process          53
    2. Complex Requests
      1. number of requests processed              361
      2. median number of days to process        267
  2. Status of pending requests.
    1. Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year           1,869
    2. Median number of days that such requests were pending as of that date
      1. archival records          250
      2. personnel records          53

VIII. Comparisons with Previous Year(s) (Optional)

  1. Comparison of numbers of requests received
  • 6,606 in FY 1998 v. 7,022 in FY 1999
  • Other statistics significant to agency
    1. In addition to the FOIA/PA requests described above, in FY 99 the National Archives staff responded to
    • 105,789 written requests for archival records
    • 1,925,113 requests for military and civilian personnel files
  • The National Archives' complex FOIA requests took 267 days to process in FY 99. 96% of these complex FOIA requests were for records that the National Archives must refer to other agencies for a declassification review. These requests cannot be completed until the agencies reviewing for declassification respond to the National Archives with a decision on the status of the documents.
  • 80 percent of our FOIA requests are for veterans' records at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. Only 28.8 percent of these requests were answered within 20 working days. Service backlogs at the center are what prompted us to undertake a business process reengineering project there. We are in the pilot phase now, and when all the recommendations are fully implemented, we will be able to meet our response time standards.
  • IX. Costs/FOIA Staffing

    1. Staffing levels.
      1. Number of full-time FOIA personnel     5
      2. Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in total work-years)     34.5
      3. Total number of personnel (in work-years)    39.5
    2. Total costs (including staff and all resources).
      1. FOIA processing (including appeals)     $1,642,970
      2. Litigation-related activities (estimated)    $0.00
      3. Total costs                                            $1,642,970

    X. Fees

    1. Total amount of fees collected by agency for processing requests    None
    2. Percentage of total costs        None

    XI. FOIA Regulations (Including Fee Schedule)

    The National Archives' FOIA regulations are found in 36 CFR Parts 1250 (operational records), 1254 (archival records), and 1258 (fee schedule for archival records). The complete version of all National Archives regulations is also available online or for sale through the Government Printing Office.