The Freedom of Information Act, commonly known as FOIA, is a federal law that allows anyone to request access to federal government documents. Most states have similar laws that allow people to request documents from state government agencies. FOIA requests must be made in writing and must not fall into one of the nine exceptions listed in the statute. Those exceptions include information important for national security, personnel rules, trade secrets, information related to current litigation and other specifically described information. The purpose of the exceptions is to protect the safety and well-being of American citizens while balancing the public’s right to know what is going on in its government. While FOIA requests are often initiated by the media, you as an individual have the same rights as large media corporations to request information from the government. Remember the presumption is that a government agency should provide you with the information that you request, if it is going to deny request should do so in writing and it has the burden of explaining to you the reasons why your request has been denied.