All agency records must be made available to the public under the FOIA, except for records that are:
- Properly classified as secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy (b)(1).
- Related solely to internal personnel rules and practices (b)(2).
- Specifically exempted by other statutes (b)(3).
- Concerning trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential (b)(4).
- Privileged interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters, except under certain circumstances (b)(5).
- Personnel and medical files and similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy (b)(6).
- Investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes (b)(7).
- Contained in or related to certain examination, operating, or condition reports concerning financial institutions (b)(8).
- Geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells (b)(9).
For a more detailed description of these exemptions click here.
Limits on FOIA
There are limitations on FOIA requests. Requesters may ask for records, not information. An agency is neither required to collect information it does not have or is not organized in the configuration requested, nor must an agency do research or analyze data for a requester. The other limitation is that the law requires that each request must reasonably describe the records being sought. The request must be specific enough to permit a professional employee of the agency who is familiar with the subject matter to locate the record in a reasonable period of time.