Information About the Freedom of Information Act
The introduction of the Freedom of Information Act or the FOIA in the country ensured that the public could now access certain records maintained by the US government. These records can be accessed by making a written request except in certain cases where they cannot be disclosed in compliance to the nine exemptions stated in the Act. The bill was approved as a law during the tenure of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 and was implemented right from the next year. The Act ordained the partial or complete disclosure of information that was so long unreleased as part of United State government protocol. The Act clearly lays down the information that can be disclosed, the process that is to be following while making an FOIA request along the nine exemptions to the rule.
Freedom of Information Act Exemptions
The exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act are:
• Information that has been identified as confidential by an Executive order pertaining to foreign policy or national defense
• Matters concerning the practices or the internal personnel rules of an agency
• Information that has been exempted from being a subject to FOIA by a statute
• Official letters and memoranda of an agency or exchanged between other agencies are not available to a third party except in cases where litigation is involved.
• Financial information and trade secrets of an individual that are deemed as confidential
• Information that is compiled for the sake of the law enforcement processes
• Medical and personal documents the availability of which would be nothing but an intrusion in one’s private space
• Geophysical and geological data
• Data which forms a part of the report of an agency that is responsible for supervising the work of financial institutions.
The Applicability of the Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act is applicable only to federal agencies. It does not give the public the right to access records that are in possession of the Congress, the local or state level agencies and the court records. Requests for obtaining local or state government records need to be made to the concerned agency.
The process to request for accessing a federal agency record is clearly stated in the Department of State Information Access Guide or Manual. You can mail your completed request to Office of Information Programs and Services, A/GIS/IPS/RL, US Department of State, Washington DC 20522-8100. You can also send a fax at 202 261 8579.
The Act is holds true for federal government agencies only and therefore has an impact on the availability of public records. Classified information pertaining to the internal processes of federal agencies are therefore strictly guarded. As per the Act, the United State Department of Justice has to disclose records for which it receives requests. However, information that falls under any of the nine exemptions and the three exclusions cannot be made public. This also holds true for another federal wing, the United States Department of Labor. You can view the link http://www.dol.gov/dol/foia/ to learn more about the information that is made public on request along with other details pertaining to it.