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About FOIA & Other Information Access Programs

Introduction to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Guide

The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA) was signed into law on October 2, 1996. The amendments require agencies to prepare a guide for requesting access to information from the Department.  Consistent with these requirements, the Department has prepared this E-FOIA Guide. The E-FOIA Guide provides links to helpful reference guides and explains how you can obtain additional information from the Department.

1996 FOIA Highlights

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal statute. FOIA generally provides that any person has a right to request access to federal agency records, except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. There are several point to keep in mind regarding the FOIA.

Your request must be made in writing and you must provide a "reasonable description" of the records you are seeking.
Agencies have 20 working days to provide an initial response.
Agencies and requesters are encouraged to work together to define the scope of the request and the timing of the response.
Agencies may establish "multi-track" response systems to facilitate the processing of simpler requests, rather than putting all requests in a single "queue."
FOIA Documents in the
Electronic Reading Room

The FOIA was recently amended by the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA). Among other things, E-FOIA grants the public access to government documents via computer telecommunications. The provisions of the FOIA, as amended by E-FOIA, can be found at 5 U.S.C. 552.

In response to the requirements of the FOIA, the Department has established a FOIA Electronic Reading Room on the Internet. Here are some important points to consider regarding the EFOIA:

Not all documents released in response to a FOIA request are placed in the Electronic Reading Room, only those which are or  likely to become the subject of subsequent requests.
The first documents made available will be those released since November 1, 1996. Documents of continuing public interest released before that date will be added over time.
In general, the documents appear as they were released to the original requester. Where necessary, however, some information may have been withheld to prevent an unwarranted invasion of privacy. Such deletions are shown at the place on the document where the deletion has been made.

If you cannot find the information you seek on this site, you may wish to file a FOIA request.

Making a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) Request

These guidelines will help the Department of State respond to your request.

FOIA requests must be made in writing. There are no special forms needed for making a request.
You can submit your request by mail, fax, or through our electronic FOIA Request Aid

Fax - (202)261-8579
Address - Margaret P. Grafeld, Information & Privacy Coordinator
Office of Information Resources Management Programs and Services,
Department of State
Washington, D.C.20522-6001
Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

Write "Freedom of Information Act Request" on the envelope or on the subject line of your fax.
Include a daytime telephone number in case we need to contact you.
To learn about Department of State records, go to:
FAM (Foreign Affairs Manual)
Department of State Records
Government Information Locator Service (GILS)
Government Printing Office's Privacy Act Issuances, 1995 Compilation
Describe the records you are seeking as clearly and precisely as you can. If your request is vague or too broad, we may ask you to be more specific, and this can delay the processing of your request (See 22CFR171.10(a))
State your willingness to pay the applicable fees or provide a justification to support a fee waiver (See 22CFR171.15 and Fee Structure).
For information about how the Department of State processes FOIA requests, refer to FAQs.
To understand the scope of the law, refer to Text of the 1996 FOIA.
To learn what types of records maintained by the Department of State may be exempted from disclosure under FOIA, go to 22 CFR 171, section 171.11.
Your appeal rights are discussed in Appealing a FOIA Decision.

Please refer to the links below for additional guidelines and reference materials.

Privacy Act

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