What information is available under the FOIA?
Federal agencies are required to disclose records upon receipt of a written request, with some exceptions. This right of access is enforceable in court. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides public access to all federal agency records except for those records (or portions of those records) that are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions or three exclusions (reasons for which an agency may withhold records from a requester).
The exemptions cover:
1. Classified national defense and foreign relations information
2. Internal agency rules and practices
3. Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another law
4. Trade secrets and other confidential business information
5. Inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges
6. Information involving matters of personal privacy
7. Certain information compiled for law enforcement purposes
8. Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions
9. Geological information on wells
The three exclusions, which are rarely used, pertain to certain sensitive law enforcement and national security matters.