Freedom Of Information Act Requests

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 USC Sec.552, was enacted in 1966 so that any individual or organization would have access to government records, unless the records are protected by one of nine exemptions (see FOIA Exemptions. Courtesy: US Dept of Commerce) 

How to File a FOIA Request

A FOIA request can be made for any agency record that is not publicly available. Describe as best as possible the records you are requesting. In your description include information such as the date and place the records were created, the file descriptions, subject matter, persons involved, and other pertinent details that will help identify the records. Please be aware that the FOIA does not require agencies to answer questions, or to create records to respond to a request. 

FOIA requests must be in writing either by email or with a paper copy. For all requests please include a mailing address, a daytime telephone number so we may contact you if necessary, and keep a copy of your request; you may need to refer to it for further correspondence with the NBRC. 

Sample FOIA Request Language for Email or Paper Copy

[Date]

Mark Scarano, Federal Co-Chair
Northern Border Regional Commission
JC Cleveland Federal Building, Suite 3602
Concord, New Hampshire 03301

RE: Freedom of Information Act Request

Dear Chairman Scarano:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting copies of [identify the records as clearly and specifically as possible].
If there are any fees for searching or copying the records, please let me know before you fill my request. [Or, please supply the records without informing me of the cost if the fees do not exceed $______, which I agree to pay.]
If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information.  If you have any questions about handling this request, you may telephone me at [your daytime phone number] or by email anytime at [your email address].

Sincerely,

[Your Name]
[Your Address]

[Your Phone Number and Email Address]

FOIA Fees

A fee is not charged if the charges for processing the request are less than or equal to the cost of routine collection and processing of the fee. Therefore, if the total of charges due for processing a request is $20 or less, no fee will be charged. If the estimated fee for search or duplication charges exceed $25 the requester shall be notified, unless the requester has stated in the FOIA request an amount sufficient to cover the estimated fees.

Response Time

Under FOIA, you have a right to a response within twenty business days excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. The period begins on the day the request is actually received by the FOIA office which maintains the records requested. DOC makes every effort to meet this time frame, however, under certain circumstances, this period may be extended up to 30 business days. Agencies are allowed an additional ten business days when: (1) they need to collect responsive records from field offices; (2) the request involves a "voluminous" amount of records which must be located, compiled, and reviewed; or (3) if an agency must consult with another agency which has a substantial interest in the responsive document. When an extension is needed, the requester may be notified and offered the opportunity to modify or limit their request.