Congress created the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, to allow any person to request access to records of the executive branch agencies or entities. “Any person” includes U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, associations and universities. FOIA also requires agencies to make certain information available to the public on agency web sites.
FOIA is a disclosure statute and requires agencies to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them. This right of access is enforceable in Federal court. However, the FOIA does contain nine specific exemptions under which Federal agencies may or must withhold information. The government carries the burden of showing why information cannot be disclosed.
OGIS plays a unique role within the Federal FOIA landscape, complementing other offices and agency professionals. We work across all Federal departments and agencies to provide an alternative to litigation in resolving FOIA disputes. We work alongside the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy, which provides policy guidance on FOIA matters on behalf of the U.S. Attorney General. Through these roles and functions we support the President’s Open Government Initiative.
For more detailed information about FOIA, see the Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act .
More FOIA Resources:
FOIAonline: Allows you to submit FOIA requests to all participating agencies from this website, track the status of requests, search for requests submitted by others, and generate up-to-the-minute reports on FOIA processing.
FOIA.gov: This web site from the Department of Justice’s Office for Information Policy provides information about FOIA, contact information and more.