The Effective Use of the FOIA
There are a number of helpful books describing how to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), including Congress's own Citizen's Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records. 1 In addition, assistance in the preparation of FOIA requests is provided by various public interest organizations, including the National Security Archive and Public Citizen. These sources are recommended for full information and assistance in the use of the FOIA; here we provide a brief outline of the FOIA request process.
Under the FOIA, any person of any nationality may seek access to records from any agency of the U.S. government, including departments, regulatory commissions, and other establishments in the executive branch. The FOIA also applies to the Office of Management and Budget and the Executive Office of the president, but not to the president himself or his advisers within the Executive Office. The FOIA does not apply to Congress, the federal courts, private corporations, tax-exempt organizations, or federally funded state agencies, but documents filed with federal agencies by these groups are subject to disclosure.
All "records" of an agency may be requested under the FOIA. Any information controlled by an agency is usually considered to be a record under the FOIA. The form in which a record is maintained, such as a printed document, tape recording, or computer disk, does not affect its