Publication Date



[Excerpt] The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA; 5 U.S.C. §552) allows any person—individual or corporate, citizen or not—to request and obtain, without explanation or justification, existing, identifiable, and unpublished agency records on any topic. Pursuant to FOIA, the public has presumptive access to agency records unless the material falls within any of FOIA’s nine categories of exception. Disputes over the release of records requested pursuant to FOIA can be appealed administratively, resolved through mediation, or heard in court.

This report provides background on FOIA, discusses the categories of records FOIA exempts from public release, and analyzes statistics on FOIA administration. The report also provides background on several legal and policy issues related to FOIA, including the release of controversial records, the growth in use of certain FOIA exemptions, and the adoption of new technologies to improve FOIA administration. The report concludes with an examination of potential FOIA-related policy options for the 113th Congress.


Suggested Citation
Ginsberg, W. (2014). The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): Background, legislation, and policy issues. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.