Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

FOIA Annual Report 2000

National Archives And Records Administration (NARA)
Fiscal Year 2000

I. Basic Information Regarding Report

A. Questions about this report can be addressed to the Office of General Counsel, Room 3110, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. The telephone number is 301-837-1750.

B. An electronic version of the report is available at:

C. To request a copy of the report in paper form write to the Office of General Counsel, Room 3110, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.

II. How to Make a FOIA Request

The National Archives receives FOIA requests for all of the executive branch records in its legal custody, both the operational records it creates as an agency of the executive branch and the archival records it maintains as the archives of the U.S. government. Judicial and legislative records among the National Archives' holdings are not subject to the provisions of the FOIA. For a full description of the types of records the National Archives maintains and where to send FOIA requests for those records, please review the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reference Guide.

The National Archives also receives FOIA requests for those presidential records created under the terms of the Presidential Records Act. FOIA applies to presidential and vice-presidential records beginning with the administration of Ronald Reagan. For information on the specifics of when FOIA applies to these records and where to send FOIA requests for them, please review the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Reference Guide.

In addition, the National Archives' National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) receives Privacy Act and FOIA requests for personnel and medical records of former military and civilian employees of the Federal government. The NPRC provides access to these records in accordance with the access and release policies of the agency that has legal custody of the records. Military records remain in the legal custody of Department of Defense (Army, Air Force, Navy and the Marine Corps) or the Department of Transportation (U.S. Coast Guard). Most civilian employee records are covered by U.S. Office of Personnel Management regulations on access. See information concerning access to military or civilian personnel records.

B. Brief description of the agency's response-time ranges

Several different issues play into the National Archives' response time on FOIA requests.

a) When FOIA requests are submitted to those Presidential Libraries subject to both the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Freedom of Information Act, the National Archives must inform both the current and the former president which records we propose to open and then allow the presidents a 30 day review period before we can release the documents.

b) The National Archives has very limited authority to declassify documents. When the National Archives receives a FOIA request for records that are classified often it can not respond to the requestor until the originating agency has reviewed the documents and made a release determination. During FY 2000, FOIA requests for classified documents were pending for a median of 734 days. The National Archives spent an average of 21 days responding to those FOIAs; during the other 713 days the requests were on hold while the National Archives waited on release decisions from other agencies.

c) During FY 2000, the NPRC estimates that it received more than 1.7 million1 written request for access to military and civilian personnel records. Of that total 7,684 were FOIA requests. Because of the volume of requests handled by the NPRC, it has become the practice of the staff to send a letter of acknowledgment to the requestor upon the receipt of a perfected FOIA request. The request then goes into the standard reference "queue" where it is processed by date of receipt. The NPRC estimates that the average request is processed within 61 calendar days.

1The NPRC receives written requests from the public, state and local government units, and other Federal agencies. The National Archives is unable to provide an exact number of FOIA requests received or processed at the NPRC. The numbers provided in this report are estimates. The National Archives is instituting a new data collection system at the NPRC, which will provide for a more accurate accounting of requests.

C.Brief description of why some requests are not granted.

The National Archives withheld information 357 times at the initial processing and appeal stages under specific exemptions of the FOIA in FY 2000. Approximately 61% of these withholdings were either to protect the privacy of individuals or to withhold information the release of which would harm the national security of the United States.

III. Definitions of Terms and Acronyms Used in the Report

A. Agency-specific acronyms or other terms.

  1. NARA – National Archives and Records Administration
  2. PRA – Presidential Records Act
  3. Operational records – records that the National Archives creates or receives in carrying out its mission and responsibilities as an executive branch agency
  4. Archival records – permanently valuable records of the United States Government that have been transferred to the legal custody of the Archivist of the United States

B. 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 for access to records under these two statues are included in this report. This report does not account for requests for archival records that do not cite the FOIA or Privacy Act.)

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 (non expedited) 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

A. 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.

Exemption 3 Statute

Types of information withheld

Court decisions supporting the withholding

50 U.S.C. § 403(d)(3)

CIA intelligence sources and methods

CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159 (1985)

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)

26 U.S.C. § 6103

Tax return information

Church of Scientology v. IRS, 484 U.S.9 (1987)

42 U.S.C. § 2162

Atomic energy information

Meeropol v. Meese, 790 F.2d 942 (D.C. Cir. 1986)

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)

44 U.S.C. 2201 et. seq

Presidential records

Ricchio v. Kline, 773 F2d 1389 (D.C. Cir. 1985)

V. Initial FOIA/PA Access Requests

This includes all FOIA/PA Access Requests, whether first-party or third-party.

A. Numbers of initial requests.

1. Number of requests pending as of end of preceding fiscal year: 1869

2. Number of requests received during current fiscal year: 9187

3. Number of requests processed during current fiscal year: 9311

4. Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year: 1745

B. Disposition of initial requests.

1. Number of total grants: 8386

2. Number of partial grants: 285

3. Number of denials: 185

a. number of times each FOIA exemption used:

(1) Exemption 1: 80

(2) Exemption 2: 6

(3) Exemption 3: 39

(4) Exemption 4: 5

(5) Exemption 5: 5

(6) Exemption 6: 98

(7) Exemption 7(A): 10

(8) Exemption 7(B): 0

(9) Exemption 7(C): 23

(10) Exemption 7(D): 6

(11) Exemption 7(E): 16

(12) Exemption 7(F): 12

(13) Exemption 8: 0

(14) Exemption 9: 0

4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total): 455

a. no records: 113

b. referrals: 262

c. request withdrawn: 8

d. fee-related reason: 0

e. records not reasonably described: 0

f. not a proper request for some other reason: 31

g. not an agency record: 32

h. duplicate request: 9

i. other: 0

VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests

A. Numbers of appeals.

1. Number of appeals received during fiscal year: 47

2. Number of appeals processed during fiscal year: 592

2 This number includes 14 appeals received during FY99 and processed during FY00.

B. Disposition of appeals.

1. Number completely upheld: 45

2. Number partially reversed: 13

3. Number completely reversed: 1

a. Number of times each FOIA exemption used (counting each exemption once per use):

(1) Exemption 1: 25

(2) Exemption 2: 2

(3) Exemption 3: 6

(4) Exemption 4: 0

(5) Exemption 5: 1

(6) Exemption 6: 14

(7) Exemption 7(A): 1

(8) Exemption 7(B): 0

(9) Exemption 7(C): 0

(10) Exemption 7(D): 0

(11) Exemption 7(E): 4

(12) Exemption 7(F): 4

(13) Exemption 8: 0

(14) Exemption 9: 0

4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total): 0 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: 0

7.not an agency record: 0

8.duplicate request: 0

9.other (specify): 0

VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests

A. Median processing time for requests processed during the year.

1. Simple requests.

a. number of requests processed: 8886

b. median number of days to process: 333

3 Median numbers noted in this report were extracted from data in the Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS). This system is the official source of statistical information that the National Archives uses to track its performance against the target goals in the agency's strategic plan. Other statistics were provide by individual staff offices and manually tabulated for inclusion in this report.

2. Complex requests (specify for any and all tracks used).

a. number of requests processed: 425

b. median number of days to process: 28.5

3. Requests accorded expedited processing.

a. number of requests processed: 0

b. median number of days to process: 0

B. Status of pending requests.

1. Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year: 1745

2. Median number of days that such requests were pending as of that date: 378.5

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

D. Other statistics significant to agency

FOIA requests make up only a very small portion of the requests that the National Archives receives in a year. In FY 2000, the National Archives received 107,149 requests for access to archival records. In 91.91 % of those cases, we were able to respond to requesters within ten working days. Note that the number of requests cited does not include the far greater number of research requests received from researchers visiting National Archives facilities.

IX. Costs/FOIA Staffing

A. Staffing levels.

1. Number of full-time FOIA personnel: 7

2. Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in total work-years): 25.5

3. Total number of personnel (in work-years): 32.5

B. Total costs.

1. FOIA processing: $ 1,336,087

2. Litigation-related activities: $ 3,249

3. Total costs: $ 1,339,336

X. Fees

  1. Total amount of fees collected by agency, under the FOIA, for processing requests: 0
  2. Percentage of total costs: 0

The National Archives does not charge fees for document search or review of accessioned (archival) records. However, in accordance with 44 USC § 2116 (c), the National Archives charges fees to recover the costs of making reproductions.

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).