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The Freedom of Information Act, enacted in 1966, provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, of access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records are protected from disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement records exclusions.


How to File a FOIA Request

NIST FOIA Officer

Frequently Asked Questions

Exemptions

Electronic FOIA

Sample Letters

DoC FOIA HomePage


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do I make a FOIA request?
Submit your request in writing to the NIST FOIA Office at the following address or via e-mail to sharon.bisco@nist.gov.

National Institute of Standards and Technology
Sharon Bisco, FOIA & Privacy Act Officer
100 Bureau Drive, STOP 3220
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-3220
Phone number: 301-975-4054

Do I need to complete a form?
No, just write a letter or send an e-mail message with as much detail as possible about the records you want.

How does NIST process FOIA requests?
When your request arrives in the FOIA Office, it is logged in and then sent to the area(s) within NIST that may have the records you have requested. Program staff in those areas search their files for the records. If our staff find records, they review them and send them to the FOIA Office. The FOIA Office then reviews the response package and determines which records can or cannot be released. All releasable records are sent to the requester with a letter from the FOIA Officer.

How long will it take NIST to respond to my request?
Under FOIA, agencies have 20 working days to answer a request.

What kinds of records can NIST withhold and on what grounds can the agency deny a request?
An agency must provide records to a requester regardless of the identity of the requester or the requester's purpose in seeking the records. It must also provide the records even if the requester can otherwise obtain them from a non-government source, so long as the requested records are "agency records" subject to the FOIA. The agency can refuse to disclose them only when they fall within one of the nine specific statutory exemptions from the FOIA's disclosure provisions under section 552(b) of the law. Exemptions include:

Exemption 1 - Classified documents
Exemption 2 - Internal agency rules
Exemption 3 - Information exempted by another federal statute
Exemption 4 - Confidential business information
Exemption 5 - Internal government communications
Exemption 6 - Personal privacy
Exemption 7 - Law enforcement
Exemption 8 - Financial institutional records
Exemption 9 - Geological information

How do I know if NIST has withheld records from me?
The FOIA Office will tell you in its response letter if records or parts of records you requested have been withheld and which exemptions apply.

What if I think NIST has withheld records and should not have?
If NIST withholds records from you, your response letter will state your appeal rights. The letter will say that you may challenge the decision to withhold records or parts of records and will describe how you may file an appeal.

If your appeal is denied, you can file a judicial appeal in the U.S. District Court where you live, in the district where the documents are located, or in the District of Columbia.

What happens if NIST does not have the records I want?
The FOIA Office will tell you in writing if they are unable to locate records you requested.

If our FOIA Office staff know that another agency has the records you want, they will refer you to that agency.

What are the fees for filing a FOIA request?
FOIA allows agencies to charge requesters for FOIA services, e.g., search and review time, copy costs, and special services like document certification and Federal Express fees.

If you are concerned about costs, ask for a cost estimate in your letter. FOIA staff will let you know roughly what your fees will be before they process your request, and they will give you a chance to approve these fees.

How can I reach the NIST FOIA Office?
The FOIA Office can be reached by phone at (301) 975-4074. Their address is: National Institute of Standards and Technology, FOIA Office, 100 Bureau Drive, Stop 3220, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-3220.

The NIST FOIA Reading Room is located in Building 101, Room A529. To access the room contact Sharon Bisco at (301) 975-4054.

SAMPLE LETTERS

The bracketed [ ] areas explain how to use these sample letters to write your own letter.

Freedom of Information Act Request Letter
 
Agency Head [or Freedom of Information Officer]
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, State, Zip Code

 Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

Dear ___________________:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552.

I request that a copy of the following documents [or documents containing the following information] be provided to me: [identify the documents or information as specifically as possible].

In order to help to determine my status to assess fees, you should know that I am [insert a suitable description of the requester and the purpose of the request].

[Sample requester descriptions:

 --a representative of the news media affiliated with (a newspaper, magazine, television station, etc., or a public interest organization that publishes or disseminates information, etc.), and this request is made as part of news gathering and not for a commercial use.

--affiliated with an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, and this request is made for a scholarly or scientific purpose and not for a commercial use.

--an individual seeking information for personal use and not for a commercial use.

--affiliated with a private corporation and am seeking information for use in the company's business.]

[Optional] I am willing to pay fees for this request up to a maximum of $[ ]. If you estimate that the fees will exceed this amount, please inform me first.

[Optional] I request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in my commercial interest. [Include a specific explanation.]

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,
 
 

Name
Address
City, State, Zip Code
Telephone Number [optional]
 

Freedom of Information Act Appeal Letter
 
Agency Head or Appeal Officer
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, State, Zip Code

 Re: Freedom of Information Act Appeal

Dear ______________________:

This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act.

On [date], I requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act. My request was assigned the following identification number [00-000-00].

On [date], I received a response to my request in a letter signed by [name of official]. I appeal the denial of my request.

[Optional] The documents that were withheld must be disclosed under the FOIA because __________________________________________________________.

[Optional] I appeal the decision to deny my request for a waiver of fees. I believe that I am entitled to a waiver of fees. Disclosure of the documents I requested is in the public interest because the information is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in my commercial interests. [provide details]

[Optional] I appeal the decision to require me to pay review costs for this request. I am not seeking the documents for commercial use. [provide details]

[Optional] I appeal the decision to require me to pay search charges for this request. I am a reporter seeking information as part of news gathering and not for commercial use.

Thank you for your consideration of this appeal.

Sincerely,
 
 

Name
Address
City, State, Zip Code
Telephone Number [optional]
 

EXEMPTIONS

Exemption 1 applies to matters that are "(A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive Order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive Order."

Executive Order 12356, issued by President Reagan, requires agency records to be classified if their disclosure "reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security." Such records, if "in fact properly classified" according to the substantive and procedural rules of the Executive Order, are exempt from mandatory disclosure under the FOIA.

Requesters should note that courts have upheld agencies decisions to "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of requested records in cases where disclosure merely of the records' existence reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security.

FOIA amendments adopted in 1986 authorize the FBI to do this for its classified records pertaining to foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, or international terrorism investigations.

Exemption 2 applies to matters that are "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of any agency."

This has generally been interpreted to exempt from disclosure only those minor and routine matters in which the public could not reasonably be expected to have an interest. It has also been interpreted to exempt law enforcement manuals from disclosure where such manuals are predominantly of internal interest to agency personnel and their disclosures significantly risks circumvention of agency regulations or statutes.

Exemption 3 applies to matters that are "specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (other than Section 552b of this title) provided that such statute (A) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue, or (B) establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld."

In order to assert this exemption, an agency must cite a federal statute other than the FOIA and show that (1) the statute meets either the (A) or (B) criteria of the exemption, and (2) the records at issue fit within the category of information which the statute authorizes to be withheld.

There is no comprehensive list of statutes meeting the exemption criteria.

Exemption 4 applies to matters that are "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential."

In order to bring a record within this exemption, an agency must show that the information is (A) a trade secret or (B) information that is (1) commercial or financial, (2) obtained from a person, and (3) privileged or confidential.

If the information was generated by the government, it cannot fall within this exemption. However, the term "person" is here, as elsewhere in the FOIA, broadly construed to include a wide range of entities, private corporations and the like.

Requested records will be considered "confidential" within the meaning of this exemption if their disclosure is likely to either impair the government's ability to obtain necessary information in the future, or cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the person from whom the information was obtained. A pledge of confidentiality from the agency, or the fact that the information at issue is not customarily available to the public, will not qualify requested materials as "confidential" under this exemption.

Exemption 4 cases sometimes give rise to so-called "reverse FOIA" actions, in which the original submitter of the requested materials will seek to prevent the agency from releasing them to the requester.

Exemption 5 applies to matters that are "inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency."

This provision was intended to incorporate certain common law discovery privileges into the FOIA exemption scheme, and it is probably the most complex of the FOIA's nine exemptions. Included within its scope are the "executive" privilege (protecting advice, recommendations and opinions which are part of the deliberative, consultative, decision-making processes of government), the attorney "work-product" privilege (protecting documents prepared by an attorney in anticipation of particular proceedings, where disclosure would reveal the attorney's litigation strategy or theory of the case), and the attorney-client privilege (protecting confidential communications between an attorney and his client).

The "executive" privilege, which is the most frequently encountered application of Exemption 5 generally involves the most difficult "line-drawing" problems for the agencies and the courts. Pre-decisional versus post-decisional, fact versus opinion - these distinctions hold clear only to a point. Courts have held that pre-decisional recommendations, which would ordinarily be exempt, lose the protection of the "executive" privilege if an agency, in making a final decision, chooses expressly to adopt them or incorporate them by reference. Conversely, facts that would ordinarily be available to the public have been withheld where they are selected or summarized in a way that reflects the deliberative process, or where their disclosure would impair the agency's ability to obtain information that is essential to the agency's decision-making process.

Exemption 6 applies to "personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

This exemption requires agencies and Courts to balance personal privacy interests against the public interest in disclosure when the record of information at issue can be identified as applying to a particular individual. Although the Supreme Court has noted that the exemption standard of Ocularly unwarranted" appears to tilt this balance in favor of disclosure, the Court has also made clear that, for purposes of the FOIA, there is "public interest" in the disclosure of "personal" information only when such information will shed light on" the operations or activities of some government agency or official.

Exemption 7 applies to records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but "only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, © could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a state, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual."

Congress had substantially revised the original 1966 language of this exemption in 1974, and the current version reflects further amendments enacted in October 1986.

Before demonstrating that disclosure of particular records would result in at least one of the six enumerated harms, the agency must show that the records are "compiled for law enforcement purposes."

Although civil and criminal, judicial and administrative enforcement proceedings may all qualify for protection, the proceedings must involve a specific, suspected violation of law.

In the case of a criminal law enforcement agency, whether records were "compiled for a law enforcement purpose" is generally a function of whether there is a "rational" link between the information connected and one of the agencies law enforcement duties.

However, in the case of the FBI, some courts have concluded that virtually all Bureau records are necessarily "compiled for law enforcement purposes" because of the nature of the FBI's responsibilities. Many courts have also said that such information, when compiled in the course of a criminal investigation, is presumed confidential under Section (7) (D), unless proven otherwise.

It should also be noted that information contained in records originally compiled for law enforcement purposes does not lose Exemption protection when it is summarized or reproduced in a new document that is compiled for some purpose other than law enforcement. Conversely, records originally compiled for purposes other than law enforcement can nevertheless qualify for Exemption 7 protection if they are subsequently assembled for law enforcement purposes.

The 1986 FOIA amendments permit an agency to refuse to confirm or deny the existence of records when disclosure of their existence could reasonably be expected to interfere with a criminal law enforcement proceeding and there is reason to believe that the subject of the proceeding is not aware of its pendency.

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

This seldom-encountered exemption is broadly applied by the courts to withhold a wide variety of reporting materials from many different kinds of ''financial institutions." Although the term financial institution is not defined in the FOIA or its legislative history, case law has ruled that it may include any entity authorized to do business under federal laws concerning banks and related institutions. The scope of the exemption is, therefore, not limited to depository Institutions or entities actually regulated by the agency at issue, nor is it limited to matters affecting the solvency of the particular institution.

Exemption 9 applies to matters that are "geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning oil wells."

This least-asserted, least-litigated exemption of the FOIA provides blanket protection for oil well information, which is in most cases also protected by Exemption 4.

It is important to remember that the exemptions listed above are discretionary rather than mandatory; in effect, this means that an agency can decide to release records to a requester even after it has determined that the records may be withheld pursuant to one or more of the exemptions.

The FOIA also requires an agency to provide a requester with any "reasonably segregable portion" of a record after deletion of the portions which are exempt" from disclosure. This means that any agency may not withhold an entire document on the grounds that some portions of the document are exempt.

SUMMARY OF ELECTRONIC FOIA AMENDMENTS

Section 1. Short Title
Section 2. Findings and Purposes
Section 3. Application of Requirements to Electronic Format Information
Section 4. Information Made Available in Electronic Format and Indexation of Records
Section 5. Honoring Form or Format Requests
Section 6. Standard for Judicial Review
Section 7. Ensuring Timely Response to Requests
Section 8. Time Period for Agency Consideration of Requests
Section 9. Computer Redaction
Section 10. Report to the Congress
Section 11. Reference Materials and Guides
Section 12. Effective Date

Section 1. Short Title
The Act may be cited as the "Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996."

Section 2. Findings and Purposes
The findings make clear that Congress enacted the FOIA to require Federal agencies to make records available to the public through public inspection and upon the request of any person for any public or private use. The findings also acknowledge the increase in the government's use of computers and exhorts agencies to use new technology to enhance public access to government information.

The purposes of the bill include improving public access to government information and records, and reducing the delays in agencies' responses to request for records under the Freedom of Information Act.

Section 3. Application of Requirements to Electronic Format Information
The bill would add a definition of "record" to the FOIA to address electronically stored information. There is little disagreement that the FOIA covers all government records, regardless of the form in which they were stored by the agency. The Department of Justice agrees that computer database records are agency records subject to the FOIA. See "Department of Justice Report on 'Electronic Record' Issues Under the Freedom of Information Act," S. Hrg. 102-1098, 102d Cong., 2d Sess. 33 (1992). The bill would define "record" to "include any information that would be an agency record subject to the requirements of this section when maintained by an agency in any format, including an electronic format."

Section 4. Information Made Available in Electronic Format and Indexation of Records
The Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to use electronic media and formats, including public networks, to make government information more easily accessible and useful to the public. This bill would help effectuate this goal.

This section of the bill would require that materials, such as agency options and policy statements, which an agency must "make available for public inspection and copying," pursuant to Section 552 (a) (2), and which are created on or after November 1, 1996, be made available by computer telecommunications, as well as in hard copy, within 1 year after the date of enactment. If an agency does not have the means established to make these materials available on-line, then the information should be made available in some other electronic form, e.g., CD-ROM or disc. The bill would thus treat (a) (2) materials in the same manner as it treats (a) (1) materials, which under the Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993 ("GPO Access Act"), Pub. Law 103-40, are required, via the Federal Register, to be made available on-line.

This section would also increase the information made available under Section 552 (a) (2). Specifically, agencies would be required to make available for public inspection and copying, in the same manner as other materials required to be made available under Section 552 (a) (2), copies of records released in response to FOIA requests that the agency determines have been or will likely be the subject of additional requests. In addition, they would be required to make available a general index of these prior-released records. By December 31, 1999, this index should be made available by computer telecommunications. Since not all individuals have access to computer networks or are near agency public reading rooms, however, requesters would still be able to access previously-released FOIA records through the normal FOIA process.

As a practical matter, this would mean that copies of prior-released records on a popular topic, such as the assassinations of public figures, would subsequently be treated as (a) (2) materials, which are made available for public inspection and copying. This would help to reduce the number of multiple FOIA requests for the same records requiring separate agency responses. Likewise, the general index would assist requesters in determining which records have been the subject of prior FOIA requests. Since requests for prior-released records are more readily identified by the agency without the need for new searches, this index would assist agencies in complying with the FOIA time limits.

This section would make clear that to prevent a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, an agency may delete identifying details when it makes available or publishes the index and copies of prior-released records.

Finally, this section would require, consistent with the "Computer Redaction" requirement in Section 9 of the bill, an agency to indicate the extent of any deletion from the prior-released records and, where technically feasible, to indicate the deletion at the place on the record where the deletion was made.

Such identification need not be included when doing so would harm an interest protected by the exemption in subsection (b) under which the deletion was made.

Section 5. Honoring Form or Format Requests
Section 5 would require agencies to assist requesters by providing information in the form requested, including requests for the electronic form of records, if the agency is able to reproduce it in that form. This section would overrule Dismukes v. Department of the Interior, 603 F. Supp. 760, 763 (D.D.C. 1984), which held that an agency "has no obligation under the FOIA to accommodate plaintiff's preference [but] need only provide responsive, nonexempt information in a reasonably accessible form."

This section would also require agencies to make reasonable efforts to search for records that are maintained in electronic form or format, unless such search efforts would significantly interfere with the operation of the agency's automated information systems.

The bill defines "search" as a "review, manually or by automated means," of "agency records for the purpose of locating those records responsive to a request." Under the FOIA, an agency is not required to create documents that do not exist. Computer records located in a database rather than in a file cabinet may require the application of codes or some form of programming to retrieve the information. Under the definition of "search" in the bill, the search of computerized records would not amount to the creation of records. Otherwise, it would be virtually impossible to get records that are maintained completely in an electronic form, like computer database information, because some manipulation of the information likely would be necessary to search the records.

Section 6. Standard for Judicial Review
Section 6 would require a court to accord substantial weight to an agency's determination as to both the technical feasibility of redacting nonreleasable material at the place on the record where the deletion was made, under paragraphs (2) © and subsection (b), as amended by this Act, and the reproducibility of the requested form or format of records, under paragraph (3) (B), as amended by this Act. Such deference is warranted since an agency is familiar with the availability of technical resources within the agency to process, redact and reproduce records.

Section 7. Ensuring Timely Response to Requests
The bill addresses the single most frequent complaint about the operation of the FOIA, namely, agency delays in responding to FOIA requests by encouraging agencies to employ better records management systems.

Multitrack Processing--An agency commitment to process requests on a first-come, first-served basis has been held to satisfy the requirement that an agency exercise due diligence in dealing with backlogs of FOIA requests. Processing requests solely on a FIFO basis, however, may result in lengthy delays for simple requests, due to the prior receipt and processing of complex requests, and in increased agency backlogs. The bill would permit agencies to promulgate regulations implementing multitrack processing systems, and make clear that agencies should exercise due diligence within each track. Agencies would also be permitted to provide requesters with the opportunity to limit the scope of their requests in order to qualify for processing under a faster track.

Unusual Circumstances--The FOIA currently permits an agency in "unusual circumstances" to extend for a maximum of 10 working days the statutory time limit for responding to a FOIA request, upon written notice to the requester setting forth the reason for such extension. The FOIA enumerates various reasons for such an extension, including the need to search for and collect requested records from multiple offices, the volume of records requested, and the need for consultation among components of an agency.

For unusually burdensome FOIA requests, an extra ten days still provides insufficient time for an agency to respond. The bill would provide a mechanism to deal with such requests, which an agency would not be able to process even within an extra ten days. For such requests, the bill would require an agency to inform the requester that the request cannot be processed within statutory time limits and provide an opportunity for the requester to limit the scope of the request so that it may be processed within statutory time limits, or arrange with the agency an agreed upon time frame for processing the request. In the event that the requester refuses to reasonably limit the request's scope or agree upon a time frame and then seeks judicial review, that refusal shall be considered as a factor in determining whether "exceptional circumstances" exist under subparagraph (6) (C).

Requesters should not be able to make multiple requests merely to avoid the procedures otherwise applicable in unusual circumstances. To avoid the potential problem of multiple requests for purely circumvention purposes, the bill would permit agencies to promulgate regulations to aggregate requests made by the same requester, or group of requesters acting in concert, if the agency reasonably believes that such requests actually constitute a single request, which would otherwise satisfy the unusual circumstances specified in subparagraph (6) (B) (iii) of the bill. The aggregated requests must involve clearly related matters. Agencies are directed not to aggregate multiple requests involving unrelated matters.

Exceptional Circumstances--The FOIA provides that in "exceptional circumstances," a court may extend the statutory time limits for an agency to respond to a FOIA request, but does not specify what those circumstances are. The bill would clarify that routine, predictable agency backlogs for FOIA requests do not constitute exceptional circumstances for purposes of the Act, unless the agency demonstrates reasonable progress in reducing its backlog of pending requests. This is consistent with the holding in Open America v. Watergate Special Prosecution Force, 547 F.2d 605 (D.C. Cir. 1976), where the court held that an unforeseen 3,000 percent increase in FOIA requests in one year, which created a massive backlog in an agency with insufficient resources to process those requests in a timely manner, can constitute "exceptional circumstances." Routine backlogs of requests for records under the FOIA should not give agencies an automatic excuse to ignore the time limits, since this provides a disincentive for agencies to clear up those backlogs. The bill also makes clear that those agencies with backlogs must make efforts to reduce that backlog before exceptional circumstances will be found to exist.

Section 8. Time Period for Agency Consideration of Requests
The bill contains provisions designed to address the needs of both agencies and requesters for more workable time periods for the processing of FOIA requests.

Expedited Access--The bill would require agencies to promulgate regulations need" for a speedy response. The agency would be required to make a determination whether or not to grant the request for expedited access within ten days and then notify the requester of the decision. The requester would bear the burden of showing that expedition is appropriate by certifying in a statement that the demonstration of compelling need is true and correct to the best of the requester's knowledge and belief. The bill would permit only limited judicial review based on the same record before the agency of the determination whether to grant expedited access. Moreover, federal courts will not have jurisdiction to review an agency's denial of an expedited access request if the agency has already provided a complete response to the request for records.

A "compelling need" warranting expedited access would be demonstrated by showing that failure to obtain the records within an expedited time frame would: (I) pose an imminent threat to an individual's life or physical safety; or, (II) "with respect to a request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged federal government activity." Agencies are also permitted to provide for expedited processing in other cases as they may determine.

Expansion of Agency Response Time--To assist federal agencies in reducing their backlog of FOIA requests, the bill would double the time limit for an agency to respond to FOIA requests from ten days to twenty days. Attorney General Janet Reno has acknowledged the inability of most federal agencies to comply with the ten-day rule "as a serious problem" stemming principally from "too few resources in the face of too heavy a workload."

Estimation of Matter Denied--The bill would require agencies when denying a FOIA request to make reasonable efforts to estimate the volume of any denied material and provide that estimate to the requester, unless doing so would harm an interest protected by an exemption pursuant to which the denial is made.

Section 9. Computer Redaction
The ease with which information on the computer may be redacted makes the determination of whether a few words or 30 pages have been withheld by an agency at times impossible. The bill would require agencies to indicate deletions of the released portion of the record and, where technically feasible, to indicate the deletion at the place on the record where the deletion was made, unless including that indication would harm an interest protected by an exemption pursuant to which the deletion was made.

Section 10. Report to the Congress
This section would add to the information an agency is already required to publish as part of its annual report. Specifically, agencies would be required to publish in its annual reports information regarding denials of requested records, appeals, a complete list of statutes upon which the agency relies to withhold information under Section 552 (b) (3), which exempts information that is specifically exempted from disclosure by other statutes, the number of backlogged FOIA requests, the number of days taken to process the requests, the amount of fees collected, and staff devoted to processing FOIA requests. The annual reports would be required to be made available to the public, including by computer telecommunications means. If an agency does not have the means established to make the report available on-line, then the report should be made available in some other electronic form. The Attorney General is required to make each report available at a single electronic access point, and advise certain Members of Congress that such reports are available.

The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are required to develop reporting guidelines for the annual reports by October 1, 1997.

Section 11. Reference Materials and Guides
The bill would require agencies to make publicly available, upon request, reference material or a guide for requesting records or information from an agency. This guide would include an index and description of all major information systems of an agency, and a handbook for obtaining various types and categories of public information from an agency.

Section 12. Effective Date
To provide agencies time to implement new requirements under the Act, Sections 7 and 8 of the bill concerning multitrack and expedited processing, unusual and exceptional circumstances, the doubling of the statutory time period for responding to FOIA requests, and estimating the amount of material to which access is denied, will take effect 180 days after the date of enactment, and the remainder of the Act will become effective one year after the date of enactment.


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Last Update:     May 12, 2004