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The Freedom of Information Act – A Legal Overview Updated

CRS report via LC – The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): A Legal Overview, Updated August 24, 2020: “Originally enacted in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes a three-part system that requires federal agencies to disclose a large swath of government information to the public. First, FOIA directs agencies to publish substantive and procedural rules, along with certain other important government materials,in the Federal Register. Second, on a proactive basis, agencies must electronically disclose a separate set of information that consists of, among other things, final adjudicative opinions and certain “frequently requested”records. And lastly, FOIA requires agencies to disclose all covered records not made available pursuant to the aforementioned affirmative disclosure provisions to individuals, corporations, and others upon request. While FOIA’s main purpose is to inform the public of the operations of the federal government, the act’s drafters also sought to protect certain private and governmental interests from the law’s disclosure obligations. FOIA, therefore, contains nine enumerated exemptions from disclosure that permit—but they do not require—agencies to withhold a range of information, including certain classified national security matters, confidential financial information, law enforcement records, and a variety of materials and types of information exempted by other statutes. And FOIA contains three “exclusions”that authorize agencies to treat certain law enforcement records as if they do not fall within FOIA’s coverage…”

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