Where do FOIA responses live? Electronic Reading Rooms and web sources

Lisa DeLuca


The Freedom of Information Act, FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552), generally provides any person with the statutory right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to government information in executive branch agency records. FOIA does not apply to the judicial or legislative branches of the U.S. government. This right to access is limited when information is protected from disclosure by one of FOIA’s nine statutory exemptions and exclusions.

The “Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996” required that agencies needed to make eligible records available electronically. As a result, there are dozens of FOIA Libraries and Electronic Reading Rooms that are repositories for responses to agency FOIA requests. These documents are also known as responsive documents. Documents are often posted by agencies with redactions to protect personal privacy, national security, and other FOIA exemptions and exclusions. It is important for researchers, journalists, and citizens to use the terms “FOIA Libraries” and “Electronic Reading Rooms” as part of their search terminology. This will ensure they can find documents that might not be findable through a regular Google search.

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