The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, is a federal law allowing for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures and grants nine exemptions to the statute.
FOIA applies to any information in an agency record, excluding information encompassed by the nine exemptions, regardless of format.
Agencies must make available for public inspection in an electronic format:
(1) Final judicial opinions, including any dissent and concurrences, and orders made in the adjudication of cases;
(2) Statements of policy and interpretations adopted by the agency and not published in the Federal Register;
(3) Administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect members of the public;
(4) Copies of all records, regardless of format that (a) have been released to someone pursuant to a FOIA records request; (b) because of the subject matter’s nature, the agency has determined the record will likely be requested frequently; or (c) has been requested 3 or more times; and
(5) A general index of all records referred to in point 4 above.
Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science and Technology Policy: The Competitive Enterprise Institute brough a FOIA action against the Office of Science and Technology Policy for refusing to search private email accounts maintained by the agency’s director for agency records within its FOIA request. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit held that records that would otherwise be defined as agency records under FOIA do not lose that designation just because the official possessing them has them stored in a personal email account.