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Freedom of Information Act


FOIA Exemptions and Denials

What are FOIA exemptions?

There are FOIA exemptions, described in 5 U.S.C. 552(b).

  • Exemption 1 – Protects national security information concerning the national defense of foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified under Executive Order.

  • Exemption 2 – Protect records that are "related solely to internal personnel rules and practices of an agency" as well as those records that are trivial or housekeeping in nature for which there is no legitimate public interest or benefit to be gained by release.

  • Exemption 3 – Incorporates the various non disclosure provisions that are contained in other federal statutes.

  • Exemption 4 – Protects trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a non-government entity which is privileged or confidential and would cause substantial competitive harm to the source if disclosed or inhibit the Government's ability to collect such information in the future.

  • Exemption 5 – Protects "inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than one in litigation with the agency."

  • Exemption 6 – Protects information about individuals in "personnel and medical files and similar files" when disclosure of such information "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

  • Exemption 7 – Protects "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information" could be expected to cause one of the harms: (1) interference with law enforcement procedures; (2) deprive a person the right to a fair adjudication; or (3) cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

  • Exemption 8 – Protects matters that are "contained in or related to examination, operation or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions."

  • Exemption 9 – Protects "geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells."

What are the reasons for not releasing a record?

There are seven reasons why an Army component may not release a record requested under FOIA.

  • The request is transferred to another Army component or Federal agency.

  • The Army component determines through knowledge of its files and reasonable search efforts that it neither controls nor otherwise possesses the requested record.

  • A record has not been described with sufficient detail to enable the Army Component to locate it by conducting a reasonable search.

  • The requester has failed unreasonably to comply with procedural requirements, including payment of fees, imposed by the FOIA and Army Regulation (AR) 25-55.

  • The request is withdrawn by the requester.

  • The information requested is not a record within the meaning of the FOIA and AR 25-55.

  • The record is denied in whole or part in accordance with procedures set forth in the FOIA and AR 25-55.

What is a denial?

When information is withheld, whether partially or fully, this constitutes a denial under FOIA. There are several reasons for not releasing a record or exemptions from FOIA. A request may be denied for one or more of the aforementioned exemptions. When this happens, the requester will be notified in writing by the Initial Denial Authority (IDA) and given appeal rights. IDAs are denial authorities for records that fall under their custodial control. If a request is denied partially, the requester will receive information that has portions deleted. Redacted records have the denied information removed from where it was originally located within the document. The appropriate exemption(s) for deletion of the information should be listed next to the sanitized area(s) on the document. There are usually two methods for sanitizing a document; one is to blacken out the denied information, and the other is to completely remove it.

Can I appeal a denial?

Yes. If a FOIA request is initially denied in whole or in part under one or more of the above exemptions, or denied for some other reason, the requester will be advised of his appeal rights and the proper procedures for submitting the appeal within 60 days. If the requester is not satisfied with the appeal determination, he may seek judicial review.