FOIA covers records from all federal regulatory agencies, cabinet and military departments, offices, commissions, government-controlled corporations, the Executive Office of the President, and other organizations of the Executive Branch of the federal government. 5 U.S.C. § 552(f). For example, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are all covered by FOIA. To browse a list of executive agencies, visit the U.S. Government Manual or the LSU Libraries Federal Agency Directory. Links to a number of federal agencies' FOIA websites are available here.
FOIA does NOT apply to the President, Congress (or members of Congress), or the federal courts and federal judiciary. For information on accessing information from these sources, see the Access to Presidential Records, Access to Congress, and Access to Courts and Court Records sections of this guide, respectively. Some federally funded organizations may not be covered by FOIA if the government does not control or regulate their operation. However, any of those organizations’ records that are filed with federal agencies may be covered. No private persons or organizations are covered by FOIA.
State and local governments are not covered by FOIA, including federally-funded state agencies, but all states and some local governments have passed freedom of information laws. Requests for information from a state or local governments must be made under that jurisdiction's freedom of information legislation. For more information on selected states, see the Access to Records from State Governments section of this guide.
All non-exempt electronic and physical records held by federal agencies must be disclosed under FOIA. Federal agencies covered by FOIA are permitted to withhold documents, or redact portions of documents, if the records (or information in the records) are covered by one of the nine exemptions established by FOIA. One of the most common exemptions relied on the exemption for national security.
The following section set out the essential information you need to know about the kinds of documents you can access using FOIA, so that you can tailor your request or, if your request is denied, to consider whether and how to this decision might be challenged.
- Finding and Getting the Records You Seek: Your first task should be to determine where the records you are interested in are located and if the information you want is already publicly available.
- Types of Records Available under FOIA: While the types of records available under FOIA is quite broad, FOIA may not apply to everything you want. Review this section to determine what types of records you can request.
- FOIA Exemptions: Before making a request, you should determine whether the records you are interested are be covered one of FOIA's exemptions, which could result in the agency denying all, or part, of your request.