FOIA Advisor

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Useful Links

We welcome suggestions to expand these listings.  

Text of FOIA

5 U.S.C. § 552 (via Legal Information Institute)

5 U.S.C. § 552 (DOJ's version highlighting 2016 amendments) 

FOIA Overview

FOIA.gov -- video presentation on website managed by the Department of Justice (DOJ)

Georgetown Law Library -- research guide that discusses how to use FOIA

A Citizen’s Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records (Sept. 2005) -- report by the House Committee on Government Reform

Your Right to Federal Records: Questions and Answers on the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act (July 2011) -- joint publication of the General Services Administration and the Department of Justice

Effective FOIA Requesting for Everyone:  A National Security Archive Guide (2008)

Transparency 101: Judicial Watch FOIA Handbook (last updated 2013)

FOIA Wiki -- collaborative resource from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

How to Make a Request for Federal Records

FOIA.gov -- video presentation on DOJ-managed website

Requester Best Practices: Filing a FOIA Request, Office of Government Information Services -- recommendations from the Federal FOIA Ombudsman

Pen to Paper: Writing a FOIA Request, in Effective FOIA Requesting for Everyone: A National Security Archive Guide (2008)  

American Bar Association -- a guide to making requests for immigration, tax, and criminal records 

iFOIA.org  -- free request letter generator

FOIA Machine -- free request letter generator for federal and state/local records

MuckRock -- commercial request service for federal and state/local records

Where to Submit a FOIA Request

FOIA.gov -- agency FOIA contact information via DOJ-run website 

open.foia.gov -- agency FOIA contact information via GSA/DOJ-run website(launched, but still under development)

FOIAonline -- allows users to make requests to participating federal agencies 

FOIA Mapper -- agency FOIA contact information

Federal court cases

DOJ Court Decisions -- searchable database of FOIA decisions as of 2013

DOJ FOIA Guide to the Freedom of Information Act -- legal treatise authored by DOJ's Office of Information Policy (OIP) 

The FOIA Project -- searchable database of FOIA lawsuits from Oct. 1996 to present (see "News" and "FOIA Lawsuits")

Access Reports -- newsletter with case summaries; paid subscription required

Google Scholar -- opinions retrievable by search terms 

Justia -- links to opinions from all federal courts

Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, Bloomberg Law -- online legal research services; paid subscriptions required

Federal government-issued guidance

DOJ Guide to the Freedom of Information Act -- legal treatise authored by DOJ/OIP

DOJ/OIP Guidance (2008 to present)

DOJ/OIP FOIA Post (2000-2010)

DOJ/OIP FOIA Update (1979-2000)

Office of Management and Budget FOIA Fee Schedule and Guidance (Mar. 1987)

White House and DOJ memoranda on consulting with White House Counsel 

Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Memorandum (Mar. 19, 2009) -- setting forth DOJ’s FOIA litigation policy

President Obama FOIA Memorandum (Jan. 21, 2009)

Office of Government Information Services -- disseminating “best practices” for FOIA requesters and federal agencies

How to File an Administrative FOIA Appeal

Federal FOIA Appeals Guide, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (1st ed. 2012)

A Second Look:  Appealing Agency Denials, in Effective FOIA Requesting for Everyone: A National Security Archive Guide (2008)    

Sample FOIA Administrative Appeals (internal FOIA Advisor link)

How to File a FOIA Lawsuit

Pro Se Help, U.S. District Court for District of Columbia -- instructions and forms for filing a lawsuit without an attorney 

How to file a FOIA lawsuit, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws, Electronic Privacy Information Center (2010 ed.) (guide for sale)   

The FOIA Project -- searchable database of FOIA complaints

Sample FOIA Complaints -- categorized by issue

Reverse FOIA:  Protecting Trade Secrets and Confidential Business Information

Reverse FOIA, in DOJ Guide to the Freedom of Information Act (last updated Aug. 2009) 

My Contract’s Been FOIA’d! Now What?, NASA (Mar. 20, 2014) (PowerPoint)

Protecting Your Company's Trade Secrets and Confidential Information in Government Contracting, Fox Rothschild LLP (Oct. 2009)

Sample letter objecting to disclosure, Steptoe & Johnson LLP on behalf of Yahoo! Inc. (Sept. 15, 2009)

Sample letter requesting confidential treatment, Aetna Life Insurance Co. to HHS (May 3, 2013)

Sample Complaint seeking to prevent disclosureSanofi-Aventis v. FDA , No. 13-1753 (D.D.C. Nov. 6, 2013) 

FOIA legislative history

FOIA Legislative Materials, DOJ/OIP

FOIA Legislative History, National Security Archive

Collections of government records

Government Attic -- searchable collection of eclectic federal records, including agency logs of FOIA requests

MuckRock -- federal and state/local records obtained by MuckRock users who have consented to disclosure

Transparency Project -- searchable collection of documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Document Vault -- collection of national security records obtained by National Security Counselors

FOIAonline -- searchable database of records released by participating federal agencies

FOIA News

MuckRock/News:  original reporting, commentary, and analysis of public records

FOIA Blog, blog by Scott Hodes, a FOIA attorney in private practice

Unredacted, blog by the National Security Archive

 

Requests Under the Privacy Act of 1974

How the FOIA and the Privacy Act of 1974 Interact, Office of Government Information Services   

A Citizen’s Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records (Sept. 2005) -- report by the House Committee on Government Reform

Your Right to Federal Records: Questions and Answers on the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act (July 2011) -- joint publication of the General Services Administration and the Department of Justice   

Overview of the Privacy Act of 1974, DOJ, Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties (2012) -- comprehensive guide to the statute

How to Make a Request for State and Local Records

Public Records Letter Generator, Student Press Law Center -- helps create a simple request for records held by a state or local government agency

FOIA Machine -- free request service for federal and state/local records

MuckRock -- commercial request service for federal and state/local records

State Freedom of Information resources

FOIA Machine -- listing all state open records laws, including deadlines for agency responses

National Freedom of Information Coalition -- listing all state open records laws, sample request letters for all states, and freedom of information hotline numbers

Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press – compendium of all state open records and open meetings laws

Society of Professional Journalists – provides step-by-step guides, letter generators, and state contact information

Brechner Center for Freedom of Information -- a part of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, which maintains a variety of freedom of information resources

New York Department of State Committee on Open Government – state agency whose website includes a searchable database of advisory opinions and reference material concerning New York’s Freedom of Information Law

Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council – state agency whose website includes a searchable database of advisory opinions and reference material concerning Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act

Freedom of Information Advocacy Organizations     

  • American Library Association -- ALA is “the oldest and largest library association in the world, providing association information, news, events, and advocacy resources for members, librarians, and library users.”
  • Cause of Action -- CoA is a non-profit, nonpartisan government accountability organization that fights to protect economic opportunity when federal regulations, spending and cronyism threaten it.
  • Center for Effective Government -- CEG aims “to build an open, accountable government that invests in the common good, protects people and the environment, and advances the national priorities defined by an active, informed citizenry.”
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington -- CREW “is dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests.”
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation -- EFF works “to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.”
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center -- “EPIC works to protect privacy, freedom of expression, democratic values, and to promote the Public Voice in decisions concerning the future of the Internet.”
  • freedominfo.org -- "freedominfo.org is a one-stop portal that describes best practices, consolidates lessons learned, explains campaign strategies and tactics, and links the efforts of freedom of information advocates around the world."
  • Judicial Watch -- Judicial Watch is a “conservative” organization that “uses the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to investigate and uncover misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.”
  • MuckRock -- MuckRock is “a collaborative news site that brings together journalists, researchers, activists, and regular citizens to request, analyze & share government documents.”
  • National Freedom of Information Coalition -- NFOIC is an “alliance of citizen-driven nonprofit freedom of information organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, journalistic societies and attorneys.”  In addition to awarding grants, NFOIC serves as an education and outreach resource for state and local governments on open government issues.   
  • National Security Archive -- NSA is “a non-governmental research institute and library located at the George Washington University that collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.”
  • OpentheGovernment.org -- OpentheGovernment.org is “a coalition of good- and limited- government groups, environmentalists, journalists, library and consumer groups, labor, and others united to make the federal government a more open place.”
  • Project on Government Oversight -- POGO investigates “systemic corruption, undue influence, or other misconduct impacting the federal government.”   
  • Public Citizen -- Founded by Ralph Nader in 1971, Public Citizen represents “consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.” 
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press -- RCFP provides “free legal advice, resources, support and advocacy to protect the First Amendment and Freedom of Information rights of journalists.”
  • Sunlight Foundation -- The Sunlight Foundation’s “overarching goal is to achieve changes in the law to require real-time, online transparency for all government information, with a special focus on the political money flow and who tries to influence government and how government responds.”
  • Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse -- TRAC is a data gathering, data research and data distribution organization at Syracuse University; it operates the FOIA Project, a database of FOIA lawsuits and statistical information. 

Last updated Nov. 15, 2017