The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which can be found in Title 5 of the United States Code, section 552, was enacted in 1966 and provides that any person has the right to request access to federal agency records or information. All agencies of the United States government are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them, except for those records that are protected from disclosure by the nine exemptions and three exclusions of the FOIA. The right of access is enforceable in court. The federal FOIA does not, however, provide a right of access to records held by Congress, the courts, state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. All states have their own statutes governing public access to state and local records and state authorities should be consulted for further information about them.
The Act was signed into law on July 4, 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson. The law is based on the presumption that the government and government information belongs to the people. Since FOIA became Public Law 89-487, the Act has undergone changes, notably in 1974 and again in 1976 when changes were made in response to a Supreme Court decision. There have been several attempts in recent years to change the language of the Act to reflect changes in technology and the Federal Government's increasing reliance on computers for records creation, dissemination, and storage. However, none of these proposed changes have become law.
The FOIA Act allows the public to request copies of records in the possession of federal agencies. The requested records are released unless the record falls into one of the nine exemptions set forth under the Act (e.g., personal privacy, confidential business information, etc.). However, BPA is required to provide the fullest possible disclosure of information to the public.
According to federal regulations, requests for records to BPA must be submitted in writing to the Freedom of Information Officer. Any request submitted to any other program office is considered "misdirected" and may result in a delayed reply. BPA is allowed to charge fees to requesters in order to recover the direct costs of search, duplication, and review of requested records. For more information, review the FOIA How To section. If the total cost of the requested information is less than $____, the fees are waived. In some cases, fee waivers or reduction of fees are granted in the public interest, but must be requested and justified by supporting documentation.