The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures and grants nine exemptions to the statute.This amendment was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, despite his misgivings on July 4, 1966, and went into effect the following year.
As indicated by its long title, FOIA was actually extracted from its original home in Section 3 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Section 3 of the APA, as enacted in 1946, gave agencies broad discretion concerning the publication of governmental records. Following concerns that the provision had become more of a withholding than a disclosure mechanism, Congress amended the section in 1966 as a standalone act to implement “a general philosophy of full agency disclosure.” The amendment required agencies to publish their rules of procedure in the Federal Register and to make available for public inspection and copying their opinions, statements of policy, interpretations, and staff manuals and instructions that are not published in the Federal Register .In addition requires every agency, “upon any request for records which reasonably describes such records” to make such records “promptly available to any person.
” If an agency improperly withholds any documents, the district court has jurisdiction to order their production. Unlike the review of other agency action that must be upheld if supported by substantial evidence and not arbitrary or capricious, FOIA expressly places the burden “on the agency to sustain its action,” and directs the district courts to “determine the matter de novo.” The Federal Government’s Freedom of Information Act should not be confused with the different and varying Freedom of Information Acts passed by the individual states. Many of those state acts may be similar but not identical to the federal act.