Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which can be found in Title
5 of the United States Code, section 552, was signed into
law in 1966 and provides that any person has the right of
access to federal agency records or information. The
law carries a presumption of disclosure; the burden is on
the government—not the public—to substantiate why information
may not be released. Upon written request, agencies
of the United States government are required to disclose those
records, unless they can be lawfully withheld from disclosure
under one of nine specific exemptions in the FOIA. This
right of access is ultimately enforceable by filing a complaint
in federal court.
federal FOIA does not, however, provide access to records
held by the US Congress, nor that of the federal judiciary.
Nor does it provide access to records of state or local government
agencies, or those held by private businesses or individuals.
Each state and the District of Columbia have statutes governing
public access to their records.
1996 EFOIA Amendments to the Freedom of Information Act require
each agency to post on their agency website guides to making
requests under the FOIA to that agency. An agency can
only respond to requests for records it has created.
For more information about filing an FOIA request, see How
to Make a FOIA Request.
(US Department of Justice