Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted on July 4, 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson after a decade of debates. Since its original passage, the FOIA has been amended several times with the last amendment signed by President Obama on June 30, 2016. The new amendment provides for the requirement of a minimum of 90 days for requesters to file an administrative apple and the notice of dispute resolutions services available throughout the processing of FOIA requests. Click here to read the entire June 30, 2016 amendment.

Click for a review of FOIA Legislative Information.

Pro-Active Disclosure

Subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA requires certain records be made readily available for public inspection. This is completed through the FOIA Reading Room. Search Reading Page. Agency opinions, orders rendered in the adjudication of cases, specific policy statements, annual FOIA logs, and certain administrative staff manuals may be found in this room. In addition, items which the Exchange believes are of public interest or have been requested at least three times may also be found in the FOIA reading room. These documents may include fuel solicitations and certain Exchange Operating Procedures.

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.

President Obama's FOIA Memorandum

"On his first full day in office, President Obama called for federal executive departments and agencies to administer the FOIA so as to achieve an unprecedented level of openness and transparency in the work of the Executive Branch, stating that agencies should administer the FOIA with "a clear presumption: in the face of doubt, openness prevails." The President directed agencies not to withhold information "merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears." He instructed agencies to respond to requests "promptly and in a spirit of cooperation." In addition, the President encouraged agencies to proactively release records, without waiting for specific requests, so that citizens can be informed "about what is known and done by their government." The President directed the Attorney General to issue FOIA Guidelines for the Executive Branch that "reaffirm the commitment to accountability and transparency.""

- Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act

Attorney General Holder's FOIA Guidance

"On March 19, 2009, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. issued new FOIA guidelines for the Executive Branch. Attorney General Holder reiterated that agencies should administer the FOIA with a presumption of openness. He encouraged agencies to make discretionary releases when appropriate, and to make partial disclosures of records when full disclosures are not possible. Significantly, he emphasized that "the responsibility for effective FOIA administration belongs to all of us – it is not merely a task assigned to an agency's FOIA staff," and he noted that "improving FOIA performance requires the active participation of agency Chief FOIA Officers." The Attorney General stated that "unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles have no place in the 'new era of open government' that the President has proclaimed," and he noted that the "timely disclosure of information is an essential component of transparency." He also called on agencies to "readily and systematically post information online in advance of any public request.""

- Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act

Open Government Act of 2007

The OPEN Government Act of 2007 requires agencies to assign request tracking numbers, provide request status information and maintain a FOIA Public Liaison to assist requesters. Public Liaisons are available to requesters for dispute resolutions with the FOIA office. In addition the OPEN Government ACT of 2007 created a new office within NARA to offer mediation services, provides new reporting mandates, and redefined the definition of a representative of the news media.

Back to top