The FOIA generally provides that any person has the right to obtain access to federal agency records except to the extent those records are protected from disclosure by the FOIA. Agencies increasingly provide a great deal of information on their websites so before making a request you are encouraged to review the materials already posted on agency websites, as you may find there the information you are interested in.
The FOIA applies to records of the Executive Branch of the federal government and does not provide access to records held by Congress, the federal courts, advisory offices of the President, state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals. All states have their own statutes governing public access to state and local government records; state agencies should be consulted for further information about obtaining access to their records.
This Reference Guide is designed to familiarize you with the specific procedures for making a FOIA request to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The process is neither complicated nor time consuming. Following the guidance below will make it more likely that you will receive the information that you are seeking in the shortest amount of time possible. This Reference Guide also includes descriptions of the types of records maintained by DOJ's bureaus, divisions, offices, and boards, which are collectively referred to as DOJ's "components." This Guide provides contact information for all DOJ components so that you may contact those components directly. DOJ's FOIA home page, which contains this Reference Guide, is located at www.usdoj.gov/foia.
Initially, it is important to understand that there is no central office in the government that processes FOIA requests for all federal departments and agencies. Each federal department and agency responds to requests for its own records. Therefore, before sending a request to DOJ you should determine whether DOJ is likely to have the records you are seeking. Each federal department and agency is required to provide reference material to assist those who wish to request records from them. Accordingly, you should view the websites of any federal agency which might have records you seek. By doing so you will learn what records are already available on the agency's website and you will also be able to determine which agency is likely to maintain the records you are seeking. Contact information for other federal departments and agencies is attached as Attachment A of this Guide, and is also available on DOJ's FOIA home page at http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/foiacontacts.htm.
The formal rules for making FOIA requests to DOJ are set forth in Chapter 16 of DOJ's regulations. These regulations are available on DOJ's FOIA website under "Making a FOIA Request" (click on "DOJ FOIA and Privacy Act Regulations"). In most cases this Reference Guide should provide you with all the basic information that you will need for submitting requests.