The Freedom of Information Act, As Amended is the legislation which provides for the release by U.S. government departments and agencies of certain categories of information on request. Since its original enactment in 1966 more than 500,000 requests have been filed by members of the public, reporters, and companies. Foreign citizens may also file requests.
Similarly the Department of Justice and the General Services Administration have jointly published Your Right To Federal Records.]. This brochure provides basic guidance about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act of 1974, to assist members of the public in exercising their rights. It uses a question-and-answer format to present information about these laws in a clear, simple manner.
When making a FOIA request the requestor must contact the department or agency holding the records in question. FOIA Contacts at Federal Agencies lists the appropriate addresses and telephone numbers, but for those uncertain about the remit of the different departments it may be necessary to search The United States Government Manual.
Many government agencies now have electronic information reading rooms where it is possible to access previously released documents with a wider public interest. The Department of Justice maintains a list of these. The following sites may be particularly useful or interesting:
The Department of State’s Electronic Reading Room provides reference points for State Department records and information access programs. It also displays, subject collections, some of the more frequently-requested documents released under (FOIA). These subject collections include material relating to Raoul Wallenberg, human rights abuse of American Citizens in Guatemala and Amelia Earhart.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s Electronic Document Release Center has been established to provide the public with an overview of access to CIA information, including electronic access to previously released documents. Among the popular document collections are the Bay of Pigs Reports, UFO’s: Fact or Fiction? and Atomic Spies: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.
The FBI’s Electronic Reading Room has made a number of cases available. These range from those involving celebrities such as John Wayne, Elvis Presley and Lucille Ball to those investigating unexplained phenomena such as Project Blue Book and Roswell.
Some non-governmental organizations which have frequently requested FOIA items make their expertise or accumulated documentation available to other users. Among these organizations is:
The National Security Archive is an independent non-profit research institute and library founded in 1985 by a group of journalists and researchers who had obtained information under FOIA and wished to make it available to others through a centralized repository. Major collections include nuclear history and the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962.
Freedom of Information Act Reading room
See also the Freedom of Information Act Reading room at the Department of State which provides reference points for State Department records and information access programs.