Exemptions and Exclusions

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Essentially every record of a federal agency must be made available to the public in one form or another, unless it is specifically exempted from disclosure or excluded from the Act. The nine exemptions generally provide the only bases for nondisclosure. These exemptions include:

  1. Exemption 1: Classified Material
  2. Exemption 2: Internal Personnel Rules and Practices
  3. Exemption 3: Nondisclosure Provision Found in Other Federal Statutes.
  4. Exemption 4: Trade Secrets, Commercial, or Financial Information
  5. Exemption 5: Inter-agency or Intra-agency memoranda or Letters
  6. Exemption 6: Personal Privacy Interests
  7. Exemption 7: Records compiled for law enforcement purposes. Exemption 7 includes six different exemption categories. This exemption may include administrative enforcement documents.
    1. 7A: Records that if released would jeopardize or interfere with enforcement proceedings.
    2. 7B: Records that if released would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication.
    3. 7C: Records that if released could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
    4. 7D: Records that if released could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a state, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential bases, and in the case of a record or information compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source.
    5. 7E: Records that if released would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.
    6. 7F: Records if released could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
  8. Exemption 8: Protects records that are contained in or related to the examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, or on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
  9. Exemption 9: Protects geological and geophysical information and data including maps and concerning wells.

FOIA Exclusions

Congress excluded three discrete categories of law enforcement and national security records from the requirement of FOIA. The Freedom of Information Act amendment of 1986 included adding these three special categories of law enforcement-related records that are entirely excluded from the coverage of the FOIA. This was done to protect and safeguard against specific harms.

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