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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Learn about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and how to make a request.


The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as amended, 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 nine exemptions. This right of access is enforceable in court.

On October 2, 1996, the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 (E-FOIA) was signed into law. The new law requires agencies to respond to a FOIA request within 20 working days, excluding holidays.

There is a wealth of information contained on this website about specific ITA programs and activities. If these resources do not contain the information you are seeking, then you may consider filing a FOIA request. Below are some links to assist you in the process:


Before submitting FOIA requests, individuals should ensure that the information they seek is not already in the public domain or on the ITA website. If the information is not in the public domain, please follow the suggestions listed below:

  • Identify the records requested (be as specific as possible, i.e., describe the subject matter of the records, and, if known, indicate the dates of the records, the places where they originated, and the names of the originating persons or offices);
  • State that the records are requested under the Freedom of Information Act;
  • Include daytime telephone numbers in case additional information is needed before answering requests; and
  • Forward all requests to the ITA FOIA Office by one of the three methods listed below:

Mail: Mark the outside of the envelope, “Freedom of Information Act Request” and mail to the following address:
International Trade Administration
Freedom of Information Officer
Room 40003
14th and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230

E-mail: Forward all requests via e-mail to

Online: To submit a FOIA request electronically, please do so through


A requestor can be charged for various services performed by agency personnel who are responding to a FOIA request. An estimate of these costs must be reported to the ITA FOIA officer before beginning the search and review. Chargeable costs vary depending on the type of requestor:

  • Commercial Use Requestors - All search, review, and duplication costs are chargeable.
  • Educational Institutions. (Non-Profit Scientific Groups or News Media Representatives) - Duplication costs are chargeable (after the first 100 pages).
  • All other Requestors - Search and duplication costs are chargeable with no review cost. The first two hours of search time and the first 100 pages of duplication are free of charge. Fees are charged to the requester after the first two hours and 100 pages.

Administrative fees cannot be charged to the requestor. These include time spent by ITA personnel in preparing a FOIA response (writing and typing, obtaining clearances, or resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions).

All fees are waived (including search, review, and duplication charges) when the amount is less than $20.00.


FOIA requesters may appeal the denial of information within 90 calendar days of the date of the response from the agency. The appeal should include a copy of the original request, the FOIA response, and a statement of the reasons why you consider the Department made the determination in error.

You may submit you appeal by one of four ways.

Assistant General Counsel for Litigation
Employment and Oversight
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Room 5898-C
Washington, D.C. 20230

Clearly mark “Freedom of Information Act Appeal” on the facsimile cover sheet, in the e-mail subject line, or on both the appeal letter and envelope. The Department does not provide an opportunity for personal appearance, oral argument, or hearing of an appeal.


Consider submitting a Privacy Act request rather than a FOIA request if you believe that the records you want are filed under your name, Social Security Number (SSN), or other personal identifier. Privacy Act requesters do not pay search fees but do pay $ .08 cents per page released. For detailed information on the Privacy Act (PA), 5 U.S.C. 552a, see the Department of Justice Text on the Privacy Act.

To submit a Privacy Act request for records maintained by the International Trade Administration, choose one of the following methods:

Mail: Mark the outside of the envelope, “Privacy Act Request” and mail to the following address:

International Trade Administration
Freedom of Information Officer
Room 4001
14th and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230

Fax: Fax the request to Dianna Finley, FOIA Officer at (202) 482-15 or

E-mail: Forward all requests via e-mail to

Online: To submit a request online, please complete the Privacy Act form.


It is the policy of the agency to make records available to the public to the greatest extent possible, in keeping with the spirit of the FOIA, while at the same time protecting sensitive information. The following is a list of FOIA exemptions and exclusions which apply to Government information in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(b). Links have been provided to the “Justice Department Guide to the Freedom of Information Act” to provide a more detailed explanation.

Exemption (b)(1) protects from disclosure national security information concerning the national defense or foreign policy, provided that it has been properly classified in accordance with Executive Order 12958.

Exemption (b)(2) exempts from mandatory disclosure records “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.”

Exemption (b)(3) covers information “specifically exempted from disclosure by statute.”

Exemption (b)(4) protects “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person that is privileged or confidential.”

Exemption (b)(5) protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party…in litigation with the agency.”

Exemption (b)(6) permits the government to withhold all information about individuals in “personnel and medical files and similar files” when the disclosure of such information “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Exemption (b)(7)(A) authorizes the withholding of “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that production of such law enforcement records or information…could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.”

Exemption (b)(7)(B) protects “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes (the disclosure of which) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication.

Exemption (b)(7)(C) provides protection for personal information in law enforcement records the disclosure of which “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

Exemption (b)(7)(D) provides protection for “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes which could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source and information furnished by a confidential source.”

Exemption (b)(7)(E) provides protection to all law enforcement information which “would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcements investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.”

Exemption (b)(7)(F) permits the withholding of information necessary to protect the physical safety of “any individual” when disclosure of information about him “could reasonably be expected to endanger his life or physical safety.”

Exemption (b)(8) protects matter that are “contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.”

Exemption (b)(9) protects “geological and geophysical information an data, including maps, concerning wells.”

The (c)(1) exclusion authorizes federal law enforcement agencies, under specified circumstances, to shield the very existence of records of ongoing investigations or proceedings by excluding them entirely from the FOIA’s reach.

The (c)(2) exclusion provides that “whenever informant records maintained by a criminal law enforcement agency under an informant’s name or personal identifier are requested by a third party, the agency may treat the records as not subject to the requirements of the FOIA unless the informant’s status has been officially confirmed.

The (c)(3) exclusion pertains only to certain law enforcement records that are maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Effective October 1, 1997, FOIA authorizes the government to take up to 20 working days to make a determination regarding your request. Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are not counted as work days. FOIA also authorizes the government to take an additional 10 working days under certain circumstances.

If your request is so complex or voluminous that it would be unreasonable to expect the government to be able to respond within 30 days, the FOIA requires that you be given an opportunity to reduce the scope of your request or develop a reasonable compromise as to when the government must respond.

Additional Information on FOIA

For additional information on the FOIA, please visit