The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law ensuring public access to U.S. government records. FOIA carries a presumption of disclosure; the burden is on the government - not the public - to substantiate why information may not be released. Upon written request, agencies of the United States government are required to disclose those records, unless they can be lawfully withheld from disclosure under one of nine specific exemptions in the FOIA. This right of access is ultimately enforceable in federal court.
For requests specific to the Colorado National Guard and Dept. of Military Affairs, contact the CONG FOIA Requester Service Center:
Colorado Army National Guard
JFHQ-CO/DCSIM ATTN: FOIA Manager
6848 South Revere Parkway
Centennial, CO 80112
(720) 250-1135 or 1130
Email the Colorado National Guard FOIA Contact
For further information, click any of the FOIA Handbooks below or access the FOIA Reading Room...
FOIA requesters who have any questions concerning the processing of their requests with the Colorado National Guard/DMVA should contact this center at 720-250-1130 or email COFOIA@ng.army.mil. If you are not satisfied with the response from the center, you may contact the FOIA Public Liaision, Jennifer Nikolaisen at 571-256-7838 or email FOIA@ng.army.mil.
"In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government."
President Barack O'Bama, 2009
Click here to read entire Presidential FOIA Memorandum.
What is the FOIA?
Enacted in 1966, The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that establishes the public's right to obtain information from federal government agencies. The FOIA is codified at 5 U.S.C. Section 552. "Any person" can file a FOIA request, including U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, organizations, associations, and universities. In 1974, after the Watergate scandal, the Act was amended to force greater agency compliance. It was also amended in 1996 to allow for greater access to electronic information.
Who can I send a FOIA request to?
The FOIA applies to Executive Branch departments, agencies, and offices; federal regulatory agencies; and federal corporations. Congress, the federal courts, and parts of the Executive Office of the President that function solely to advise and assist the President, are NOT subject to the FOIA. Records obtainable under the FOIA include all "agency records" - such as print documents, photographs, videos, maps, e-mail and electronic records - that were created or obtained by a Federal agency and are, at the time the request is filed, in that agency's possession and control. Agencies are required by FOIA to maintain information about how to make a FOIA request, including a handbook, reference guide, indexes, and descriptions of information locator systems. The best place to get this information is on the agencies' websites. Doing research to determine the right office to send the FOIA request to within the right component of the right agency will make your FOIA efforts more productive.
What are the FOIA exemptions?
|Exemption (b)(1) - National Security Information|
Exemption (b)(2) - Internal Personnel Rules and Practices
- "High" (b)(2) - Substantial internal matters, disclosure would risk circumvention of a legal requirement
- "Low" (b)(2) - Internal matters that are essentially trivial in nature.
|Exemption (b)(3) - Information exempt under other laws|
|Exemption (b)(4) - Confidential Business Information|
|Exemption (b)(5) - Inter or intra agency communication that is subject to deliberative process, litigation, and other privileges|
|Exemption (b)(6) - Personal Privacy|
|Exemption (b)(7) - Law Enforcement Records that implicate one of 6 enumerated concerns|
|Exemption (b)(8) - Financial Institutions|
|Exemption (b)(9) - Geological Information|
How can I obtain agency records without using the FOIA?
Older material dated before the mid-1970s may be available at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC or College Park, MD, or at one of the Presidential libraries. These archives are great places to do research using readily available documents. If the documents you seek are not yet publicly available, a requester may also file a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) request rather than a Freedom of Information Act request. The laws are similar, but have some key differences.
Benefits to submitting an MDR request instead of a FOIA -
- Under mandatory declassification review, there is a two-appeal system. The first appeal is to the agency denying the records and, if the agency continues to deny records, there is an opportunity for a second appeal to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) for a decision.
- In its report to the president on its 2002 activities, ISCAP noted that it had reversed agency classification of information in 75 percent of the documents it reviewed. The President of the United States is empowered to overrule ISCAP decisions.
Benefits to submitting a FOIA request instead of an MDR -
FOIA requests are more appropriate if you have a large or imprecise request that covers many different kinds of classified and unclassified documents. Only classified documents are subject to MDR. FOIA covers both classified and unclassified material.
" FOI requesters appeal denials of their requests within the agency and then to court. For the duration of the processing of an MDR request, the requester loses the opportunity to argue in court for the release of the records.
" Also, under the mandatory declassification review, agencies are allotted a longer time to respond to requesters, do not have to abide by expedited review requirements and are not authorized to waive fees. Under the FOIA agencies have specific time requirements, as well as opportunities for expedited review and fee waivers.
Requesters should seek mandatory declassification review only if they have a very clear idea of the records they are seeking (for example, knowing a specific document by name), if they also know that the records are 10+ years old, and that the records are probably still classified. Otherwise a FOIA request is a requester's best bet.