In 1967, Congress signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which granted the public the right to request federal agency records. Under FOIA, individuals and businesses can request the records they need, often without charge. But, not all records are available to the public. What information is available under FOIA, and what isn’t? We answer those questions and explain our role in the process below.
Available Information: Agency Records
As we mentioned above, federal agency records are available under FOIA. You can request a record from almost any federal agency for various reasons. Gahagan Law has assisted immigrants seeking records for court hearings, fellow lawyers who need someone with FOIA experience, and more. We can help you request records from almost any US federal agency.
Some examples of federal agencies you can request records from are:
- Commission of Fine Arts
- Department of Labor
- National Archives and Records Administration
Unavailable Information: Exceptions and Exclusions
While you can request records from almost any US federal agency, there are exceptions and exclusions. The US government reserves the right to refuse records that meet those exceptions or exclusions, although they sometimes hide behind them as well.
The nine exceptions are:
- Classified information pertaining to national defense and foreign relations
- Information protected by internal agency rules and practices
- Information that is illegal to disclose
- Confidential business information, including but not limited to trade secrets
- External or internal agency communications that have legal privileges
- Personal privacy information
- Information gathered for law enforcement
- Financial institute supervisory information
- Geological information about wells
The three exclusions are:
- Records about an ongoing law enforcement investigation where the subject is unaware of the investigation and disclosure would interfere with the investigation
- Records about a law enforcement informant whose status hasn’t been officially confirmed
- Classified Federal Bureau of Investigation records pertaining to foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, and terrorism
Obtaining Information: Why You Need an FOIA Attorney
Given the long list of exclusions and exceptions, many people seek assistance when obtaining FOIA records. If you’re in need of assistance, an experienced FOIA attorney can help you request records. An attorney can also help appeal a record request refusal or litigate a case when the federal agency doesn’t produce the records within the FOIA timeline.
A lot of information is available under FOIA, specifically federal records that don’t align with an exception or exclusion. If you need a FOIA attorney to help you obtain record information, please contact Gahagan Law.