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List the Nine Exemptions and the Three Exclusions that Protect Records from FOIA Disclosure

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1966 stipulates that any citizen is entitled to request access and complete or partial disclosure of the records and documents that are used in the operations and programs of federal agencies.  One can appeal to court for permission to access the files of interest. Some of the general information pertaining to public life is made automatically open and can be found in the “reading rooms”. However, there is certain information related to federal agencies operations that cannot be revealed to general public. Nine exemptions to the FOIA define this information.  First of all, one cannot request data dealing with classified operations on national security or foreign affairs.  Secondly, internal codes of practice are also protected. Third, legally protected documents cannot be exposed.  Fourth, all proprietary commercial transactions and information on competitive advantages is classified. The fifth exemption covers all agency communications that contain any of the abovementioned elements. The sixth exemption secures the constitutional privacy right of federal agents and assistant staff.  The seventh exemption is about task-specific files relating to the joint operations of the law enforcement and the federal agencies. Management of pecuniary institutions is classified, as well as the mapping of oil fields (Electronic Privacy Information Center).

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The three exclusions cover sensitive law enforcement information, and namely, ongoing criminal investigations that may be ruined or adversely affected by the disclosure, identities of police informants, and FBI classified files (The United States Department of Justice).

Does the FOIA Apply to Congress or to the White House?

FIOA does not apply to Congress, the President or the White House.  However, some offices of the White House may be held accountable, if they are legally bound to grand public access to their records.  The U.S. Department of Justice details the offices that could be approached for information (Electronic Frontier Foundation).
Describe How to Request Records under the FOIA

How Long Does It Usually Take to Answer a FOIA Request?

The first thing to do to file a request for records under the FOIA is to find the right department to address.  The Federal Information Center (FIC) is the proper office to turn to for assistance while performing this task.  An appeal forwarded to the right destination has better chances of being timely and efficiently addressed.  Hence, it is necessary to post a written request to the agency’s Freedom of Information Office by indicating it as an addressee both on the letter and the envelope.  The content of the letter should describe the sought information in every possible detail or the name of the file, if it is certain.  It is not obligatory but advisable to state the purpose of the request as it may also help defining the relevant data.  The purpose should be stated only for requests addressing the “waiver of fees”.  The requester should keep the copy of the original request to prove its occurrence or execute a second request if necessary.  In case there is a strong reason to believe that the information could be covered with an exemption, a request should be supplied with the cause.  If the agency finds it essential enough, it might concede into disclosing some sensitive, but security-neutral information.

The agency may charge the requester some arbitrary fees for search and photocopying.  However, these fees may be dropped if the disclosure of information is associated with a substantial public good. As a rule, it takes about 10-20 days to receive a written response to the FOIA request (Electronic Privacy Information Center).

If the Request Is Denied, Is There a Right of Appeal? If the Appeal Is Denied, Is There Anything Further that Can Be Done?

The FOIA request can only be denied if it claims information protected by an exception.  In this case, the agency will respond in writing, cite the exemption involved, justify the relevancy of the requested files to the indicated exemption, advise the requester on his right to appeal the outcome, and mention the authority to appeal to.  A denial on the part of the agency should be urgently followed by the requester’s written announcement of his intention to appeal.  Standard procedure provides that appeals are to be filed within a month after the requester got hold of a denial.  The appeal may claim the review of the decision and incorporate personal ideas on the fallacy.  An appellant is encouraged to enclose all of the information pertaining to the clash of interests including both letters of request and denial.  It might take up to 30 days for the appellate authority to decide on the appeal.  In case of failure to get a positive outcome of the appeal, one may instigate proceedings in the corresponding district court.  The trial may require much investment and effort.  However, an appellant can expect a full or partial compensation of the processual fees if he/she establishes his case (Electronic Privacy Information Center).

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How Will Having Studied the FOIA Be Beneficial in the Business Management Profession?

Understanding and application of FOIA right is extremely beneficial in the business management profession.  On the one hand, businesses provide information to federal agencies, while FOIA framework indicates which of this information is automatically made public, which might be fully or partially disclosed upon request of the interested third parties, and which of the commercial information will be protected as an exemption.  On the other hand, there is valuable information that can be accessed under FOIA and help business decisions, such as environmental reports, closed investigations, trade regulations, cases, etc.  Hence, FOIA provides sensitive business information security as well as access to the pool of decision-making intelligence.

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