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What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

The FOIA, Title 5, United States Code, Section 552, was signed into law on July 4, 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson. Since then, the FOIA has been amended in 1974, 1986, and, most recently, with the enactment of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA). The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) implements the FOIA pursuant to regulation in 10 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1004 (10 CFR, Part 1004). The FOIA establishes the premise that people should have access to government information, and it is the responsibility of the government to justify why records should not be disclosed. This page provides information about how to obtain records/information.

The Act applies to records created and maintained by agencies in the executive branch of the federal government including the Executive Office of the President, such as the DOE, and as part of the DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The FOIA does not apply to Congress, the judicial branch of the federal government, or to state or local governments. Many state governments have enacted open records laws. The attorney general of a state could provide information about that state's laws upon request.

The FOIA and E-FOIA require that certain agency records, such as descriptions of agency organization and office addresses, statements of agency operations, rules of procedures, general policy statements, final opinions made in the adjudication of cases, and administrative staff manuals that affect the public, be made available for inspection and copying regardless of the format. These records and many other agency records, in the spirit of openness, are available to the public in the public reading facilities (See Public Reading Facilities Page).

All other agency records may be requested by submitting a FOIA request. Pursuant to the FOIA, agencies generally provide records - not information - when responding to FOIA requests. This means that agencies are not required to create a record or answer questions when responding to FOIA requests.

Even though the FOIA is primarily a disclosure law, not all records requested are automatically released. The FOIA has provided nine exemptions which allow certain information that may be contained in records or the entire record to be withheld from public disclosure. The exemptions apply to records that are:

  • National defense and foreign policy
  • Internal rules and practices
  • Records exempted by other statutes
  • Trade secrets and business confidential
  • Internal memoranda; pre-decisional; attorney-client privilege; attorney work product
  • Clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
  • Law enforcement
  • Records on financial institutions
  • Records on wells

Reasonably nonexempt information will be released unless it is inextricably intertwined with exempt material.  Agencies are encouraged to make discretionary releases of information in cases in which no foreseeable harm from the release of the information can be determined.

Requests for classified records, including requests for mandatory declassification review pursuant to Executive Order 12958, will automatically be considered a FOIA request. The DOE Director of the Office of Classified & Controlled Information Review in Washington, D.C., will be responsible for the final release determination of any classified records identified as responsive to FOIA requests.

Generally, you have a right to a decision as to whether the requested records will be provided within 20 working days of receipt of your request. However, under certain circumstances, some requests may take longer to complete. If we determine we will need additional time to complete your request, we will notify you as appropriate.

If we initially deny your request in whole or in part or if we were unable to locate records, we will advise you of your right to appeal our determination as well as the judicial remedies available to you. Address your appeal to the Office of Hearings and Appeals in Washington, D.C., at the address provided in our determination letter to you.