What is a FOIA Request?Raised Image

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law allows any person the right to access records from federal agencies, although there are nine exemptions to what information can be provided. The law was enacted in 1966 and strengthened in 1974 following the Watergate scandal. In 1986 Congress amended the law again to address the fees charged for FOIA requests and stated that part of the reason for establishing fee waivers was to prevent federal agencies from withholding information because it was embarrassing to the agency.

The OPEN Government Act of 2007 made some changes in FIOA. It defined and clarified who is a member of the News Media. It provided for recovery of attorney fees and litigation costs and set time limits for the agencies to work within.

The Obama administration directed agencies to apply a presumption of openness in responding to FOIA requests and work in a spirit of cooperation with FOIA requesters. This was addressed this in their FOIA Guidelines.

The US Office of Special Counsel has developed a FOIA Handbook.

Department of Justice's An Overview of the Freedom of Information Act Procedural Requirements offers a good explanation of the legal requirements agencies need to follow under FOIA.