Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

FOIA Annual Report 2005

National Archives And Records Administration (NARA)
Fiscal Year 2005

I. Basic Information Regarding Report

  1. Questions about this report can be addressed to Ramona Oliver, NARA FOIA Officer, Office of General Counsel, Room 3110, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. The telephone number is 301-837-2024. Or Contact Us electronically.
  2. Pursuant to E.O. 13392, NARA has designated Gary M. Stern, General Counsel, as Chief FOIA Officer. Questions may be addressed to his attention at Office of General Counsel, Room 3110, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. The telephone number is 301-837-1750.
  3. An electronic version of the report is available from the NARA web site:
  4. To request a paper copy of this report write to the FOIA Officer at the address above.

II. How to Make a FOIA Request to NARA

NARA accepts FOIA requests for the executive branch agency records in its legal custody. That includes the operational records that NARA creates while conducting government business and the accessioned archival records it maintains as the archives of the U.S. government. NARA also accepts FOIA requests for Presidential and Vice Presidential records subject to the provisions of the Presidential Records Act.

For Operational Records

Office of General Counsel, Room 3110
8601 Adelphi Road, Room 3110
College Park, MD 20740-6001
301-837-2024 (phone)
301-837-0293 (fax)
Contact Us electronically

For Records of NARA's Inspector General

Office of Inspector General
Attn: FOIA Request
8601 Adelphi Road, Room 1300
College Park, MD 20740-6001
301-837-3000 (phone)
301-837-3197 (fax)

For Archival Records (Washington, Metropolitan Area)

Special Access and FOIA Staff
8601 Adelphi Road, Room 6350
College Park, MD 20740-6001
301-837-3190 (phone)
301-837-1864 (fax)
Contact Us electronically

For Archival Records (in the Regional Archives System)

FOIA requests should be addressed to the Director of the Regional Archives where the records are located. A listing of facility addresses can be found at

For Presidential Records Subject to FOIA

Pursuant to the Presidential Records Act, the records of former presidents become subject to the provisions of the FOIA five years after the presidents leave office. The incumbent or former president may continue specific restrictions for up to twelve years, after which only statutory FOIA restrictions may be applied. Currently, only the records of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton are subject to the FOIA. Records of the Clinton administration of became subject to FOIA on January 20, 2006. FOIA requests for these records should be mailed to the attention of the Library Director at the appropriate facility. Addresses of the Presidential Libraries are posted on our web site at

For Official Military or Civilian Personnel Files

National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132-5100 (e-mail)

National Personnel Records Center
Civilian Personnel Records
111 Winnebago Street
St. Louis, Missouri 63118-4126 (e-mail)

All Other Records

Judicial records, records of the Congress and legislative branch agencies, donated historical materials, and Nixon Presidential Historical Materials are not subject to the provisions of the FOIA. NARA cannot respond to FOIA requests for records solely in our physical custody, such as those records at Federal Records Centers. FOIA requests for record center holdings remain the responsibility of the transferring agency.

We have published a FOIA Reference Guide that describes the procedures for making FOIA requests to NARA. The Guide can be viewed at

Additional procedural information can be found in our implementing FOIA regulations at 36 CFR Part 1250.


For FY 2005, NARA established a target goal of completing 90 percent of FOIA requests for executive branch agency records within 20 working days. Although we failed to meet our goal for FY2005, NARA noticed a significant increase in our overall performance against our target performance goal for responding to FOIA requests. In FY 2005, NARA processed 8,878 FOIA requests. Of those, 7,547 were completed within 20 working days; a completion rate of 77.33%. In FY 2004, NARA processed 3,573 requests with a completion rate of 62.99% against the existing target goal, which required only an 85% completion rate within 20 working days. Even with a substantial increase in the number of requests processed, NARA managed to increase its overall performance by 14%. The average age of completed FOIA's decreased from 53 work days in FY 2004 to 19 work days in FY 2005. It should be noted that 64.72% of all FOIA's were completed within 10 work days or less, half the time required by law.

While NARA has made strides to enhance performance on the processing of FOIA requests, we are still faced with challenges. A number of factors contribute to NARA's inability to fully comply with the FOIA's statutory time limits.

  1. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all individual agency components and offices that receive FOIA requests.
  2. Brief description of the agency's response times
  • a. FOIA's for military records take considerably longer than the 20 day standard if the request is for a record that was lost in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center and the data must be reconstructed from other sources, or if the record has been borrowed by another agency.

    b. NARA has very limited authority to declassify documents. The length of time to respond to a FOIA can be prolonged if the records must be referred to another agency for declassification review.

    c. When FOIA requests are submitted to those Presidential Libraries subject to both the Presidential Records Act and the FOIA, NARA must inform both the current and the former Presidents of which records we propose to open and then allow the Presidents an opportunity to review the records prior to release. Executive Order 13233 allows the Presidents at least 90 days to review such documents.

    d. Some staff offices have experienced delays in the processing of FOIA requests based in part on understaffing and the volume of incoming FOIA requests. NARA is evaluating its processes and is working to counter any ill effects that these issues may impose on the processing of FOIA requests.
Brief description of why some requests are not granted

In FY05, NARA withheld information 175 times at the initial processing and appeal stages under specific exemptions of the FOIA. Approximately 45% 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. An additional 26% were held pursuant to statute or to protect agency deliberations.


III. Definitions of terms and acronyms used in this report

  1. Agency specific acronyms or other terms

    NARA - National Archives and Records Administration

    Operational records - records that NARA creates or receives in carrying out its mission and responsibility as an executive branch agency.

    Archival records - permanent records of the United States government that have been transferred to the legal and physical custody of the National Archives of the United States.

    Performance Measurement and Reporting System (PMRS) - the official source for statistical management information at NARA. PMRS is a "data warehouse" application that collects and publishes data regarding NARA's performance relative to the numeric goals in NARA's Strategic Plan.

  2. Basic terms, expressed in common terminology

    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 statutes are included in this report. This report does not account for requests for archival records that do not cite the FOIA or Privacy Act.)

    Initial request -- a request to a federal agency for access to records under the Freedom of Information Act.

    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.

    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.

    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).

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Grant -- an agency decision to disclose all records in full in response to a FOIA request.

    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.

    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).

    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).

    "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.

    Exemption 3 statute -- a separate federal statute prohibiting the disclosure of a certain type of information and authorizing its withholding under FOIA subsection (b)(3).

    Median number -- the middle, not average, number. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the median number is 7.

    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

  1. This section lists the exemption 3 statutes invoked by NARA in responding to FOIA requests; the types of information withheld most often and court decisions supporting these withholdings.
Exemption 3 Statute Types of information withheld Court decisions supporting the withholding
8 U.S.C. § 1202(f) VISA Applications De Laurentiis v. Haig, 686 F. 2d 192 (3rd Cir. 1982)
10 U.S.C. § 128 Unclassified Special Nuclear Information None
10 U.S.C. § 424 Organizational and Personnel Information for the DIA None
12 U.S.C. § 3403 Information pertaining to the organization, function or employees of the CIA Confidential Financial Records None
18 U.S.C. § 2510-2520 Wiretap requests and information Lam Lek Chong v. DEA, 929 F.2d 729 (D.C. Cir. 1991)
26 U.S.C. § 6103 Income tax returns and return information Church of Scientology v. IRS 484 U.S. 9 (1987)
41 U.S.C. § 253b(m)(1) Business proposal related to negotiated procurement action Hornbostel v. US Department of Interior, 305 F. Supp. 2d 21 (D.D.C. 2003)
42 U.S.C. § 2162(a) Atomic Energy Act (Restricted Data) Meeropol v. Meese, 790 F.2d 942 (D.C. Cir. 1986)
42 U.S.C. § 2168(a)(1)(C) Atomic Energy Act (Formerly Restricted Data) None
50 U.S.C. § 402 Note Sec. 6, PL 86-36 NSA Function and information Founding Church of Scientology v. NSA 610 F.2d 824, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1979)
50 U.S.C. § 403-3(c)(7) Intelligence sources and methods CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159, 167 (1985)
50 U.S.C. § 403g CIA organization, activities, and personnel Minier v. CIA, 88 F.3d 796, 801 (9th Cir. 1996)
F.R.Cr.P. 6(e) Grand jury information Senate of Puerto Rico v. United States Department of Justice, 823 F. 2d 574 (D.C. Cir. 1987)

V. Initial FOIA/PA Access Requests

  1. Numbers of initial requests.

  2. 1. Number of requests pending as of end of preceding fiscal year 5,501
    2. Number of requests received during current fiscal year 9,759
    3. Number of requests processed during current fiscal year 8,878
    4. Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year 6,382

  4. Disposition of initial requests.

  5. 1. Number of total grants 434
    2. Number of partial grants 101
    3. Number of denials 10

  • a. number of times each FOIA exemption used
    (counting each exemption once per request)
    • (1) Exemption 1 32
      (2) Exemption 2 4
      (3) Exemption 3 40
      (4) Exemption 4 10
      (5) Exemption 5 6
      (6) Exemption 6 47
      (7) Exemption 7(A) 0
      (8) Exemption 7(B) 0
      (9) Exemption 7(C) 22
      (10) Exemption 7(D) 10
      (11) Exemption 7(E) 4
      (12) Exemption 7(F) 0
      (13) Exemption 8 0
      (14) Exemption 9 0
4. Other reasons for nondisclosure (total) 8,333
  • a. no records 7,889
    b. referrals 151
    c. request withdrawn 9
    d. fee-related reason 4
    e. records not reasonably described 117
    f. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason 29
    g. not an agency record 14
    h. duplicate request 16
    i. other 104
    (in some instances "other" refers to records subject to the Presidential Records Act in lieu of FOIA)


VI. Appeals of Initial Denials of FOIA/PA Requests

  1. Numbers of appeals.

  2. 1. Number of appeals received during fiscal year 28
    2. Number of appeals processed during fiscal year 29

  4. Disposition of appeals.

  5. 1. Number completely upheld 6
    2. Number partially reversed 5
    3. Number completely reversed 1
  • a. number of times each FOIA exemption used
    (counting each exemption once per appeal)
    • (1) Exemption 1 0
      (2) Exemption 2 4
      (3) Exemption 3 2
      (4) Exemption 4 0
      (5) Exemption 5 1
      (6) Exemption 6 7
      (7) Exemption 7(A) 0
      (8) Exemption 7(B) 0
      (9) Exemption 7(C) 1
      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) 17
  • a. no records 7
    b. referrals 2
    c. request withdrawn 2
    d. fee-related reason 1
    e. records not reasonably described 1
    f. not a proper FOIA request for some other reason 4
    g. not an agency record 0
    h. duplicate request 0
    i. other 0


VII. Compliance with Time Limits/Status of Pending Requests

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

  2. 1. Simple requests (if multiple tracks used).

  • a. number of requests processed 8,669
    b. median number of days to process 13.531
    1PMRS measures processing times using the average number of days that requests are pending.
2. Complex requests (specify for any and all tracks used).
  • a. number of requests processed 209
    b. median number of days to process 252.442
    2PMRS measures processing times using the average number of days that requests are pending.
3. Requests accorded expedited processing.
  • a. number of requests processed 0
    b. median number of days to process 0
  • Status of pending requests.

  • 1. Number of requests pending as of end of current fiscal year 6,382
    2. Median number of days such requests were pending as of that date 1,6313
    3This number represents the average number of work days between the receipt of NARA's oldest pending FOIA request, which was received on September 21, 1992, and the receipt of its most recent pending request received on September 30, 2005. It should be noted that the oldest pending request in our log was referred for declassification review on August 4, 1993. NARA is still awaiting a determination from the equity holding agency.


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

    1. Other statistics significant to agency

    NARA received 9,759 FOIA requests during FY05. Of that total, the agency processed 8,878 requests; 7,547 of those were completed within 20 working days, an overall completion rate of 77% (a 14% increase over last year).

    NARA answered 1,124,066 written reference requests for access to records among NARA's holdings. These requests seek records that are publicly available and have no restrictions to access. Of the over 1.1 million requests received, NARA answered 694,758 within 10 working days.

    It should be noted that FOIA requests make up only a very small portion of the requests that NARA receives in a year. In FY05, NARA answered 1,124,066 written requests for access to archival records. This number does not include the 537,044 items furnished to researchers in NARA's reading rooms or the far greater number of telephone inquiries and other matters handled for researchers visiting NARA facilities.

    In FY05, NARA received two requests for the expedited processing of Presidential records subject to the Presidential Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act in FY05. However, NARA was unable to comply with either request. As stated in 36 CFR 1250.28, NARA can only expedite requests, or segments of requests, for records over which we have complete control. NARA cannot expedite requests for Presidential records because we do not control the notification period required under E.O. 13233.


    IX. Costs/FOIA Staffing

    1. Staffing levels.

    2. 1. Number of full-time FOIA personnel 21
      (represents employees who spend at least 85% of their time processing FOIA requests)

      2. Number of personnel with part-time or occasional FOIA duties (in total work-years) 4
      3. Total number of personnel (in work-years) 25

    4. Total costs (including staff and all resources).

    5. 1. FOIA processing (including appeals) $1,741,987.00
      2. Litigation-related activities (estimated) N/A
      3. Total costs $1,741,987.00

    X. Fees

    A. Total amount of fees collected by agency, under the FOIA, for processing requests: $0
    B. Percentage of total costs: 0%

    For NARA's operational records, fees are assessed in accordance with NARA's FOIA fee schedule. Commercial requesters are charged search, review, and reproduction fees. All other requesters are provided the first 100 pages of reproductions or their equivalent free of charge. Fees for operational records are not charged if the aggregate of all applicable fees is less than $10. NARA did not collect any fees for processing FOIA request for operational records in FY05.

    NARA does not charge fees for document search or review of accessioned (archival) records. However, in accordance with 44 USC § 2116 (c), NARA charges standard fees to recover the costs of making reproductions in response to requests received by NARA. In our current system there is no way to distinguish reproductions made in response to FOIA requests records, from reproductions made in response to other types of requests.


    XI. FOIA Regulations (Including Fee Schedule)

    NARA's FOIA regulations are found in 36 CFR Part 1250, which includes the fee schedule for NARA's operational records. The fee schedule for archival records is found in 36 CFR Part 1258.