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I. How to make an information request
II. Where to find an agency's rules relating to FOIA
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How to make an information request

  1. How to make an information request

       The first thing to do when making a request under the FOIA is to identify which agency (or branch of the agency) has the records you seek. A FOIA request must be addressed to a specific agency, there is no central government records office that services FOIA requests. Accordingly, take the time required to locate the office appropriate for your request. If you're not sure, you can consult a government directory such as the United States Government Manual. This manual has a complete list of all Federal agencies, a description of agency functions, and the address of each agency. An electronic version of the Manual may be found on the Office of the Federal Register website at If still not sure, you can always make FOIA requests to more than one agency.

      "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both."  
    James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry (August 4, 1822), reprinted in G.P. HUNT, ED., IX THE WRITINGS OF JAMES MADISON 103 (1910).

       Your FOIA request must be in writing. Keep in mind that your letter requesting information can be short and simple and in plain english; you don't need to have a lawyer to make a FOIA request. (Please refer to elsewhere on this site for examples of FOIA request letters). The request letter should be addressed to the agency's FOIA officer or to the head of the agency (or to the local FOIA officer if you know the information is located in a particular place). The envelope containing the written request should be marked "Freedom of Information Act Request" in the lower left-hand corner.

       The Act requires three basic elements in all request letters. First, the letter should specifically state that it is being made under the Freedom of Information Act (so it is properly routed to facilitate the fastest response time). Second, the request should identify the records that are being sought as specifically as possible (so that the agency need not guess what you are seeking or engage in a time consuming back and forth with you to figure out what you're looking for). Third, your name and address must be included (so the agency can respond to you, though not required by law, you should also include your phone number to ensure fastest possible communications with the agency).

       For the purposes of an information request, FOIA does not require that you indicate the reasons you are seeking the information. However, the law allows agencies to charge fees in conjunction with the status or purpose of the requester. Different fees can be charged to commercial users, representatives of the news media, educational or noncommercial scientific institutions, and individuals. Additionally, you can seek a waiver or reduction of fees associated with your request, if you can demonstrate to the agency that the disclosure of the records you seek with substantially benefit the public interest. Consequently, a requester may be required to provide additional information to allow for agency determination the appropriate fees.

  2. Where to find an agency's rules relating to FOIA.

    1. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), is a series of books which contain the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register under which the federal executive branch agencies operate. They are organized into 50 titles which are in turn divided into chapters which usually bear the name of the issuing agency. Each chapter is further subdivided into parts covering specific regulatory areas. For example, regulations pertaining to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's FOIA Office, a branch of the Department of the Interior, are located in Title 43, Chapter II, part 2. These rules are cited as: 43 CFR § 2.

    2. Following is a partial listing of some of the federal agencies and the CFR citations of their FOIA regulations which may be of interest to you:
Animal Damage Control (Dept. of Agriculture): 7 CFR § 1.1. (U.S.F.S. FOIA regs.)
Army Corps of Engineers (Dept. of Defense): 32 CFR §§ 518 (U.S. Army FOIA regs.)
Bonneville Power Administration (Dept. of Energy): 10 CFR § 1004.
Bureau of Land Management (Dept. of Interior): See generally, 43 CFR § 2 (DOI FOIA regs.)
Bureau of Reclamation (Dept. of Interior): See generally, 43 CFR § 2 (DOI FOIA regs.)
Department of Agriculture: 7 CFR § 1.1.
Department of Defense: 32 CFR §§ 285, 286.
Department of Interior: 43 CFR § 2.
Environmental Protection Agency: 40 CFR § 2.
Export-Import Bank: 12 CFR § 404.
Fish & Wildlife Service (Dept. of Interior): See generally, 43 CFR § 2 (DOI FOIA regs.)
Forest Service (Dept. of Agriculture): 36 CFR § 200 _ 7 CFR § 1.1. (U.S.F.S. FOIA regs.)
International Pacific Halibut Commission: 50 CFR § 301.1 _ 15 CFR § 4 (Dept. of Commerce FOIA regs.).
International Whaling Commission: 50 CFR § 351.1 _ 15 CFR § 4 (Dept. of Commerce FOIA regs.).
International Boundary & Water Commission (U.S. & Mexico): 22 CFR § 1102.
Marine Mammal Commission: 50 CFR § 520.
Minerals Management Service (Dept. of Interior): See generally, 43 CFR § 2 (DOI FOIA regs.)
Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Information: 30 CFR § 252.6.
Oil, Gas, and Sulphur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf: 30 CFR § 250.18.
Geological & Geophysical Explorations of the Outer Continental Shelf: 30 CFR § 251.14.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 15 CFR § 903 _ 15 CFR § 4.
National Park Service (Dept. of Interior): See generally, 43 CFR § 2 (DOI FOIA regs.)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration: 14 CFR § 1206.
Pacific Salmon Commission: 50 CFR § 351.1 _ 15 CFR § 4 (Dept. of Commerce FOIA regs.).
Regional Fisheries Management Councils (Including the Pacific and N. Pacific Regional Councils)(Dept. of Commerce): 15 CFR § 4.
Soil Conservation Service (Dept. of Agriculture): 7 CFR § 661 _ 7 CFR § 1.1 (U.S.F.S. FOIA regs.).
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