Freedom of Information

Welcome to IRE’s Freedom of Information page. Here you’ll find IRE resources and external links to help you understand federal or state-level freedom of information law, file requests, overcome obstacles and get the documents and data you need. You’ll also find coverage of ongoing Freedom of Information developments and tales of open records battles on our blog Transparency Watch.

Filing requests

 

Know your FOI law

Before you file a request, make sure you know the details about what is and isn’t public, what formats you can get the information in and how long an agency has to respond to your request. State open records and meetings laws differ from the federal FOIA, and exemptions, time limits and processing costs vary from state to state.

Guides to the federal FOIA

  • FOIA.gov
    Get to know the law, its reach and its exemptions, and get aggregate data on requests, denials and appeals at the federal FOIA page.
  • FOIA online
    A few federal agencies have begun participating with this federal site, intended to add transparency to the FOIA process by publicizing requests and responses.
  • FOI Center
    The Freedom of Information Center is a reference and research library in the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism on the campus of the University of Missouri … The FOI Center possesses the oldest and most comprehensive Freedom of Information library in the world, with a collection of more than one million articles and documents about access to information at the state, federal and local levels.
  • The National Security Archive, George Washington University
    The National Security Archive was founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy. Its primary functions include “investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents (“the world’s largest nongovernmental collection” according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.”

Guides to state FOI laws

  • FOIA Advocates
    You can open or download .pdf copies of all 50 states’ public records laws from this page.
  • NFOIC state guide
    Supplies contact information, publications, form letters, and updated resources on all 50 states’ FOI processes.
  • Open Government Guide
    Complete guides on each state’s open records and open meetings laws.  Guides may be purchased as print or .pdf copies.

 

Working with FOIA and public information officers

Access to information is rarely as simple as request and receive. It can take considerable time and effort to get access to records — particularly the records you need. IRE’s community of journalist has developed tips and best practices for fighting and winning public records battles.

 

Get help with your request

Between legal help, open records ombudsmen and FOI advocates who will fight on your behalf, you don’t have to be alone in your request.

  • Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)
    OGIS is a Freedom of Information Act resource for both the public and government. OGIS is charged with reviewing FOIA policies and compliance. It also resolves FOIA disputes between federal agencies and requesters.
  • FOI litigation fund
    With a grant from the Knight Foundation, the National Freedom of Information Coalition offers legal help on FOI matters.
  • MuckRock
    MuckRock is an online service that that makes it easy for you to quickly file FOIA requests. MuckRock acts as a request proxy, e-mailing, faxing or mailing the request on your behalf, with the documents returning to its offices and then prepared for the requester’s convenience. MuckRock also ensures documents remain private until a project is ready to publish.

 

The latest in FOI

The following sites provide updates on the latest happenings in Freedom of Information, as well as tools for tracking requests as they’re made.

  • The Art of Access
    The Art of Access is a blog from the Missouri Journalism School’s freedom of information expert, Charles Davis, who authored an open government guidebook by the same name. The blog categorized posts into access tips and different kinds of useful public documents, sorted by beat: “We hope that over time this will serve as a useful, searchable repository for record ideas and tips that will help you get story ideas and suggestions for acquiring records. We’ll also work to tag each post with the chapters it corresponds to in the book – so you can find what you need, when you need it.”
  • Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
    The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) is a research center at Syracuse University. TRAC was established in 1989 in order to obtain detailed information from various federal agencies under the FOIA, check its accuracy and completeness and make the data available to the public through its two web sites, TRAC and TRACFed.
  • The FOIA Project
    A project of TRAC, the FOIA project is a comprehensive repository of FOIA lawsuit documents, hosted by DocumentCloud. The FOIA project is soon expandng to include documents pertaining to requests and responses, sorted by government agency.
  • The Government Attic
    The Government Attic provides electronic copies of thousands of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Most are historcial documents, reports on items in the news and other oddities: “Think of browsing this site as rummaging through the Government’s Attic — hence our name.”
  • The FOIA Advocate
    The NFOIC open government blog contains analysis as well as aggregation form around the web regarding trends in open meetings and records polices and practices.
  • The FOIA Ombudsmen
    A freedom of information blog from the U.S. National Archives Office of Government Information Services. Weekly FOIA logs are included.