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Guide to Freedom of Information Act

Annual FOIA Report - FY 2011  (PDF 61KB)

Annual FOIA Report – FY 2011 (XML 27KB)

The following questions and answers are designed to assist you in obtaining information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  A complete copy of the Board FOIA regulations, 4 C.F.R. Part 201 is available at

  1. How do I obtain information routinely available to the public?
    Information is available to the public without filing a FOIA request.  Examples are powers and functions of the Board, guidelines adopted by the Board, Board reports to the President and Congress, including the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and House of Representatives, Congressional testimony of the Chairman of the Board.
  2. Can I request records under FOIA over the telephone?
    No.  A request for documents under FOIA must be in writing.  You may submit a request through the postal mail, by email, or by fax.  In accordance with Board regulations, you must provide a return address.  In addition, if you modify your request, you must verify the change in writing.  Otherwise, processing will not begin.
  3. What do I need to know about the records I am requesting in my FOIA request?
    In order for a record to be considered subject to your FOIA request, it must be in the Board’s possession and control at the time the Board begins its search for responsive records.  There is no obligation for the Board to create or compile a record to satisfy a FOIA request (for example, by combining or compiling selected items from manual files, preparing a new computer program, calculating proportions, percentages, frequency distributions, trends and comparisons, or creating maps).
  4. What information do I need to include in my FOIA request?
    Each request must clearly describe the desired records in sufficient detail and, whenever possible, include specific information about each record sought, such as date, title or name, author, recipient, and subject. If it is determined by the FOIA Officer that the request does not clearly describe the records sought, you will be advised that additional information will be needed to locate the record or that your request is insufficient.

    If you are making a request for records about a person, Privacy Act regulations may also apply.  Please check the regulations for additional requirements before submitting your request. When making a request for records about someone other than yourself, you must include either written authorization signed by the person permitting you to see the records, or proof that the individual is deceased.  You should also provide any additional information required in the Privacy Act System of Records Notice.
  5. In what form or format will the records be sent to me?
    You may choose the form or format of disclosure for records.  The Board must provide the record(s) in the requested form/format if the officer responding to the request can readily reproduce the record in that form/format with reasonable efforts.  Applicable FOIA fees will apply regardless of the format.
  6. Where do I send my request?
    Submit your request in writing to the FOIA Officer, 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 700, Washington, D.C.  20006; via e-mail at; or fax to (202) 254-7970.
  7. How long will it take to receive a response to my request?
    When your request is received by the Board, it will be given a processing number.  At that time, the Board staff will determine whether your request is “perfected,” meaning that the request addresses and complies with the Board’s requirements under the FOIA.  The Board will send an acknowledgement letter providing you with the processing or reference number.

    Ordinarily, the Board has 20 workdays from the date of receipt to respond to your request.  If you have not received a response within 20 workdays or 30 workdays if an extension has been taken (be sure to allow for mailing time), you may contact the Board to ask about the delay.  You should contact the person listed in the acknowledgement letter as the point of contact for your request to check the status.  You may also contact the FOIA Officer at or (202) 254-7900 to check the status of your request.  You also have the right to consider any non-response within these time limits as a denial of records and file a formal appeal or lawsuit.

    NOTE: These time limits do not apply to requests for expedited processing.

    The 20 workday time limit begins when a request complying with the procedures in 4 C.F.R. §§ 201.5 and 201.11, is received by the FOIA Officer and all issues regarding fees and the scope of your request is resolved.
  8. When will the Board take a time extension to respond to my request?
    The Board may extend the 20-workday time limit for 10 more workdays when it needs to:
    • Search for, collect, and examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records sought in a single request; or
    • Consult with another agency that has a substantial interest in the determination of the request or with one or more components of the Board having substantial subject-matter interest in the request

    If the Board intends to take an extension under this subsection, it will notify you in writing and provide the reason for the extension and the date it expects to make a determination on your request or if the Board cannot complete the request

    If the extension is for more than 10 working days, the Board shall provide you with an opportunity to modify the request so that it can be processed within the time limit, or arrange an alternative time period for processing the original request.

  9. What are the criteria for receiving expedited processing?
    To receive expedited processing of your request, you must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Board that your request meets one of the following criteria:
    • Circumstances that could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual; or
    • An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged activity if made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information.

    Requests for expedited processing may be made either at the time of the initial request or at a later time.  Requests for expedited processing must include a statement explaining in detail the basis for requesting expedited processing.  For example, a requester must establish that his/her professional activity is news reporting, although it need not be his/her sole occupation.  The requestor also must establish a particular urgency to inform the public about government activity involved in the request, beyond the public’s right to know about government activity generally.

    Within 10 calendar days of receipt of a request for expedited processing, the Board shall decide whether to grant the request and notify the requestor of its decision.  If a request for expedited treatment is granted, the request shall be processed as soon as practicable.  If a request for expedited processing is denied, an appeal of that decision shall be acted on expeditiously.

  10. What is the fee schedule for processing requests?
    The Board will charge fees consistent with the provisions in 4 C.F.R. §§ 201.8 – 201.10.  Please see the FOIA fees chart to obtain the current processing fees.