What Is The Freedom Of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act requires the government to disclose its records to the public at large. For example, this act would allow someone to request the Environmental Protection Agency to release records that reveal if a certain building contains asbestos. Information that cannot be revealed includes data regarding

  1. National defense and foreign policy secrets;
  2. Trade secrets;
  3. The agency`s rules and practices regarding its personnel;
  4. Interagency legal and policy documents;
  5. Personnel files and other records whose disclosure would invade someone`s privacy;
  6. Documents involving financial institutions and
  7. Some geological surveys.

If the requested information has already been disclosed to the public, the agency does not have to reveal it again. If you do not know which governmental agency can supply you with the information you need, you can contact the Federal Information Center at PO Box 600, Cumberland, Maryland 21502 or at the following phone numbers:

Eastern Time Zone (800) 347­1997
Central Time Zone (800) 735­8004
Mountain Time Zone (800) 359­3997
Pacific Time Zone (800) 726­4995
Alaska (800) 729­8003
Hawaii (800) 733­5996
If you are deaf and use telecommunication devices (800) 326­2996

The agency must inform you whether it will grant your request within ten days of receiving your request. If an agency denies your request, it must tell you why and inform you of your right to appeal its decision through the federal court system. Usually courts are reluctant to rule against an agency`s decision.

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