About the Freedom of Information Act

March 12, 2024

The Freedom of Information Act was adopted by Congress in 1966 and on July 4 of that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law. FOIA gives the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions that protect personal privacy, national security and law enforcement.

When processing requests, agencies should withhold information only if they reasonably foresee disclosure would harm an interest protected by an exemption or if disclosure is prohibited by law, according to FOIA.gov. Agencies also consider whether partial disclosure of information is possible whenever they determine full disclosure is not possible. They should take reasonable steps to segregate and release nonexempt information. The Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice is responsible for issuing guidance on the FOIA to encourage agencies to fully comply with the letter and spirit of the FOIA.